KSD grading policy should have community support

Public education seems to be attached to a philosophical pendulum, swinging from one trend to another.

While many ideas may sound great in theory, it isn't until they are implemented that they can truly be tested. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they cause a few unforeseen consequences and sometimes new programs just don't work.

So it is a good thing the Kennewick School Board seemed willing to listen to parents, teachers and students who have been complaining about a controversial new grading system at three of the district's middle schools.

The change came about because Kennewick school administrators want a more consistent grading system applied across the district. Ensuring students are being graded in a similar manner in every class at every school sounds like a good way to treat students more fairly.

However, the experiment at Park, Horse Heaven and Highlands middle schools has left many parents, students and teachers frustrated.

Instead of the traditional grading scale that uses letter grades and a score of 0-100, the new program uses a 0-to-4 scale and attempts to assess students strictly on academic achievement and not for other areas such as student behavior.

The report cards for the new system broke down grades so specifically they ended up being several pages long and difficult for parents and students to understand.

The new grading system also caused so much extra work for teachers that a grievance against the program was filed by the teachers' union but was ultimately denied by administrators and the school board.

The complaints, however, ended up being the main topic at recent school board meetings with many vocal parents and students siding with the teachers against parts of the program.

Now it appears school board members are willing to approve certain changes to the district's grading policy in an attempt to address the controversy.

This is an encouraging step.

It's wise for school administrators to take seriously the concerns of parents, teachers and students, especially when all three constituent groups form a united front.

The school board seemed to reach a compromise by approving requirements that the grading system be easily understood and that nonacademic extra credit be prohibited.

Among those changes not approved districtwide was a proposed requirement that teachers give students an opportunity to re-do work. A proposal to allow teachers to calculate student behavior as part of a grade also was rejected.

The Kennewick School Board meets Aug. 15 to finalize changes to the grading policy. Developing a consistent grading scale across the school district is a worthwhile goal, but any new program is doomed to fail without the support of teachers, parents and students.

Attempts to foist an unpopular change on an unwilling community will only feed existing frustrations, and not bring about the improvements school district officials want.