Board votes to examine grade scale
Parent petition with 703 signatures asks for study to occur this year
by Susan O’Neill
Kanelandâ€”In a 5-1 vote, the Kaneland School Board agreed to direct the administration to commence a study this year to evaluate the current grading system for a possible change to a 10-point system. School Board President Lisa Wiet cast the dissenting vote.
During the last School Board meeting on Sept. 28, School District officials said their plan was to study the current grading scale during the 2010-11 school year. This timing took into consideration a discussion this year regarding a standardized curriculum, as well as benchmarks by which teachers will evaluate students. School officials said this discussion would provide the underpinnings for the grade scale decision.
However, this timing was not soon enough for many parents, who think the current grading scale puts their children at a competitive disadvantage.
Parent and former Kaneland School Board candidate Pedro Rivas brought before the board a petition with 703 signatures from parents that asked the board to evaluate the current grading system this year and to consider changing it to a 10-point scale from the current 7-point scale.
About a dozen parents during Tuesday’s meeting spoke against the current grading scale, in which students must receive a numerical score of 93 before receiving an A. They cited a number of concerns, including putting the students at a disadvantage when applying for college, scholarships, and reductions in automobile insurance rates, as well as having a negative impact on a student’s self-esteem.
They said a number of schools within the county, state and elsewhere operate under the 10-point scale.
â€œMy idea of grading is a little broader,â€ Wiet said. â€œFrankly, I’m very glad we’re having this discussion â€¦ Our mission involves challenging students. We need to look at the degree that we’re meeting that challenge.â€
Wiet said she thought there were other significant challenges that would not wait another year.
â€œWe have a very large challenge ahead of us,â€ Wiet said. â€œWe still need to cut $2 million to $3 million out of our budget.â€
Wiet said that last year, the district cut $750,000 from the budget, items that were described as the â€œlow-hanging fruit.â€ She said that with a very minimal increase in property taxes over last year and the State Board of Education considering a 50-percent reduction in state funding, the School Board and administration has much more important and urgent issues to deal with than the current grading scale.
â€œWhat initiative would you like to take off the table?â€ she asked fellow board member Deborah Grant, who wants the study to be done this year.
â€œOur job is to represent our constituents,â€ Grant had said. â€œThat is your community speaking to you.â€
Board member Ken Carter said he thought that if the current system placed Kaneland students at a disadvantage compared to students in other schools, he was in favor of having the discussion this year.
Board member Cheryl Krauspe said she thought it was important to allow adequate time for a data-driven, sound decision.
â€œI think it would be great (to do it this year), but I don’t think we should rush it. Collaboration is very important. Also, I don’t want to drop everything we’re doing now,â€ Krauspe said.
Kaneland Superintendent Charlie McCor-mick said his concern was that what parents were really pushing for is to lower the standards, so that more students would receive higher grades.
â€œThe message we’re getting is, we want to slide the scale down and have more students getting A’s,â€ he said. â€œThat isn’t the discussion we need to have.â€
McCormick said he thought it was important to take the necessary time to look at all aspects of the system and to evaluate all the options.
â€œIt’s only a simple thing if you’ve got your mind already made up,â€ he said. â€œWe need to consider all the options, and not have a pre-determined outcome. If it is, why study it?â€
Teresa Witt, one of the few parents who sat through the entire three-hour meeting, said she was concerned that focusing on the grading issue would force the administration to take its eye off the ball on the more critical issue of school funding.
â€œYou have much bigger fish to fry,â€ Witt said. â€œThe bleak economic picture and that you have to cut $2 million to $3 million will require time and resource allocations. It’s a much higher priority.â€
Current Kaneland grading scale
Numerical Points, Grade
69 and below F
Proposed 10-point grading scale
Numerical Points, Grade
59 and below F