Tempers flared during last Thursday’s school board meeting in Quakertown after a motion hit the table to eliminate the current Standards Based Grading system.
The motion – which was presented by Chuck Shermer, the newly appointed member of the school board – seemingly blindsided Superintendent Lisa Andrejko and other board members.
The topic was listed as an agenda item for the meeting, but only a few school board members appeared to be aware of the motion prior to Shermer’s announcement.
A heated discussion ensued regarding the need to adapt the current grading system, which is based on a 4-point rubic scale, into a more traditional approach with the focus being on grades nine through 12. Several school board members were left in awe, with Anna Cattie remarking that the motion was “inappropriate” without a detailed discussion or public comment period.
Shermer, as well as board members Paul Stepanoff and Mitch Anderson, explained that they would like to see more emphasis on graded homework assignments and class participation, as well as the reintroduction of midterms and final exams.
“We just can’t seem to discuss this here (during school board meetings),” Anderson said referring to the months of discussions that have commenced with little changes being made to the controversial grading system.
Board President Bob Smith said that some board members knew about Shermer’s motion before it was brought to the entire board and emphasized that everyone needs to look at the issues together, not in small groups unbeknownst to others. Smith said, “If it’s a worthwhile thing to do, it will pass. Talking about it in backrooms is not the way to do it.”
After a lengthy discussion on how to handle the motion presented, board member Joyce King asked that the motion be tabled until the next scheduled meeting on Sept. 26. At that time, the board will attempt to develop a grading system to replace the controversial Standards Based Grading system, focusing on high school grade levels nine through 12.
Remediation will also be discussed, as well as importance of the process for students who do not fully understand a particular area of study. Remediation in grading is best explained as the process of correcting faults in a student’s understanding of a subject, whether through extra assignments or one-on-one interaction between a student and teacher, for example, tutoring.
The district has experienced some difficulties in the recent past with remediation and students who are “gaming” the system by retaking tests they didn’t do well on initially, while still showing an understanding of the material. Surveys completed by the most recent graduating class have revealed that students felt they were ill-equipped for college because of the ability to retake tests without absorbing the information fully.
School board member Fern Strunk explained that she would like to see more emphasis on encouraging students to put their best efforts forward on assignments the first time. Members of the board agreed that specific parameters need to be set regarding remediation, which will also be up for discussion on Sept. 26.
Additionally, Stepanoff asked that the student survey results be released to the public to reiterate the need to rework the district’s grading system. Stepanoff asked, “Why shouldn’t the public see this? What are we afraid of?”