Students presented 150 letters to the Kennewick School Board this week opposing a grading system used at three of the district's four middle schools.
Seven eighth-grade students handed over the letters in packets to each board member, said Nancy Smith, the students' U.S. history and civics teacher at Horse Heaven Hills Middle School.
Five letters supporting the grading system, called standards-based grading, also were included.
Smith said students approached her about the issue and asked her to help them present their letters to the board.
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Board Chairwoman Dawn Adams didn't comment on the standards-based grading system, but said she was glad to hear from students.
"They definitely bring up some things we need to consider," Adams said.
Standards-based grading has been in place at Horse Heaven Hills for four years. Highlands and Park middle schools also use it.
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, by comparison, uses a 0-4 scale, where a 4 is a student exceeding standard while a 0 is a complete lack of any measure of meeting standard. The standards themselves are based on state requirements, and a student is graded on every component for every subject at their grade level.
Smith said the students' letters were part of the third year of her Project Citizen assignment, where students pick a topic important to them, draft their concerns and present them to elected leaders.
She said past efforts involved petitioning the school board to have a student representative and asking Kennewick to give sidewalks more consideration in land-use planning.
Smith said the students' primary concerns with standards-based grading are that it is confusing to students, parents and guardians, doesn't provide a traditional GPA and makes it difficult for top-achieving students to earn high grades.
Of the few students who wrote in support of the system, Smith said they liked it because it made it easier for them to pass courses because it's more difficult to get a failing grade.
"It didn't matter to me whether they were for or against it, I just wanted them to have a voice," Smith said.
The students aren't the only ones upset over standards-based grading. The Kennewick Education Association has filed a grievance with the district regarding the system at the request of teachers in all three schools where it is used, Teri Staudinger, KEA president, said in an email.
Adams said she was unable to respond to the students on the issue at the time because of the grievance filed with the district.
Board members are scheduled to review the grievance during a closed hearing June 13, before the board's annual end-of-school-year retreat.
"I appreciate they took the time and invited them to attend the retreat immediately after the hearing," Adams said.
Also at the meeting, the board was told the renovation of Sunset View Elementary School is nearing completion ahead of schedule and slightly under budget.
"We're putting the finishes on," said Doug Carl, district facilities manager.
The renovation cost about $9 million and will open to students for the 2012-13 school year. The district's next school renovation at Cascade Elementary is set to start in June.
He said the district also is planning for other school renovations and that forecasts for state matching money are on target.
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org