KENNEWICK -- The Kennewick School Board denied an appeal on a grievance filed by the district's teacher's union on standards-based grading systems in place at three of the district's four middle schools.
The union received the board's decision this week. Union representatives filed grievances with individual school principals months ago, citing an increased workload because of the grading system that violated teacher contracts. Principals denied the grievances, as did Superintendent Dave Bond on an initial appeal.
Board members heard the union's appeal about two weeks ago, just before a public retreat meeting where board members discussed amendments to the district's grading policy, possibly with elements of standards-based grading.
District spokeswoman Lorraine Cooper declined to comment on the board's appeal decision, citing the possibility of arbitration proceedings on the matter. Teri Staudinger, president of the Kennewick Education Association, said the union would look at next steps, including arbitration.
"Throughout this process we have offered to work with the district to come to a mutually-agreed upon solution," Staudinger said in an email. "Instead, the district seems to be moving forward with a new grading policy that will institute (standards-based grading) district-wide without the input of teachers, students or parents."
Cooper said that while the board is considering amendments to the district's grading policy, discussions about those changes would likely take months.
"They want to move slowly and get input on it," she said.
A traditional grading system typically uses a 0-100 scale and letter grades from a top grade of A to a failing grade of F. Standards-based grading uses a 0-4 scale, where a 4 is a student exceeding standards and a 0 is an incomplete. The standards are based on state requirements, and a student is graded on every component for every subject.
Administrators at Highlands, Park and Horse Heaven Hills middle schools put the grading system into place at their schools. They've said the new systems better reflect student academic achievement and indicate areas where more help is needed.
Parents have complained of being confused by the new report card format and the lack of a grade-point average in standards-based grading. Some students have voiced support for the grading system, saying it makes it easier for them to pass classes, but the board received 150 letters critical of the system from eighth-graders at Horse Heaven Hills at a public meeting weeks ago.
Under arbitration, union representatives would meet with district administrators and a mediator to work out disagreements regarding standards-based grading at the three schools. The union has a month to tell the district whether it wants to take the issue to arbitration.
Cooper said there likely won't be enough time for the board to meet and discuss amendments to the grading policy that would go into effect for the coming school year. The amendments may be part of an annual community workshop in September.