One of the primary responsibilities of the Howard County Board of Education is to review, refine, and approve the policies that govern the operation of the school system. These policies, together with the implementation procedures that detail the specifics on how the Administration will interpret the policies, should represent what we as a community expect in the operation of our system.
At the April 24th meeting, the Board approved the schedule for policies to be reviewed during the 2018-19 school year. This list includes policies that address Sexual Discrimination, Immigrant Students, Ethics, High School Grading and Reporting, Student Dress Code, and more. As one who has participated in numerous HCPSS policy reviews, I believe it is essential that Board members ‘do their homework’ so that they can ask appropriate questions and make informed decisions.
One of the more complicated policies currently under a 2-year review is Policy 8020 – Grading and Reporting: High School. An interim report on this policy is scheduled to be presented at the Board meeting on May 3rd. The interim report indicates the committee is considering a number of topics:
- Should Middle School Grading and Reporting be coupled with the High School policy – especially given that many students take high school courses in middle school?
- How should homework be addressed in policy? What restrictions on homework assignments that require access to technology should be made?
- How should ‘non-traditional’ courses – such as digital education, dual enrollment – be addressed?
- What are best practices for class weighting and class rank? Does the current system encourage students to avoid elective courses that may ‘bring down’ their weighted GPA and class rank?
- How do we ensure consistency in grading while still allowing teachers the freedom to assess their students in ways that make sense?
- What is the appropriate role, if any, for midterms and finals? Do they promote or penalize deep learning?
- Should we establish a system-wide honor code to maintain academic integrity?
One area of the policy not mentioned in the interim report are non-grade codes that students can receive. Personally, I have some concerns on these codes:
- ‘N’ Code: For a year-long course, if a student has 9 or more absences – whether those absences are excused or not – the teacher can recommend and the principal can decide to give an ‘N’ code. The student receives no credit for the course. The course will count as being attempted and earning no quality points toward GPA.
- ‘X’ Code: For students who either transfer in to HCPSS or switch courses during the year more than 7 days after the interim report of the first grading period, this code can be used. Students receive no credit for the course – regardless of whether they are able to demonstrate mastery of the course material.
Here are some other resources to check out:
As you can see, the next Board will have some significant decisions to make in this area.