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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Controversy over FHS grading system prompts meeting

Following the initiation of a petition to return Falcon High School to a traditional grading system, Falcon High School principal Cheryl DeGeorge held an informational meeting in November to help parents better understand the standards-based grading system being used today. About 120 community members, parents and students attended.DeGeorge encouraged attendees to voice their comments or concerns at the meeting, or they could also opt to schedule a later appointment with her.According to an article at http://CNN.com, standard-based grading differs from traditional ìreport cards,î where grades are given based on a variety of tests, homework, extra credit and behavior; SBG takes behavior out of the equation and demonstrates the studentsí understanding of core concepts. However, the implementation of SBG widely varies throughout the country, and school districts.ìWe are trying to bring as much consistency to the grading system as possible,î DeGeorge said. ìWe had a large number of teachers who werenít following policy. I sent out an email telling teachers that they need to follow policy. I didnít realize how many werenít.îDeGeorge said she planned to put together a survey for FHS students and parents to voice their opinions about the system.Falcon Zone leader Monty Lammers said, ìWeíll look at the comments and see if they represent the majority of our parents. If we donít conform our school to the majority of our students, itís not going to work.îLammers said there hasnít been a large number of students leaving because of standards-based grading. At the meeting, when asked how many people would consider taking their students out of the district because of the system, about 20 people raised their hands.Dawn Beaver, a parent with a senior at FHS and an eighth-grade student at Falcon Middle School, said she is trying to get her youngest into a different high school for next year to avoid the SBG system. ìWhen we got here last year, my son was a junior and had two college scouts interested in recruiting him for soccer,î Beaver said. ìHeís not a good test taker, and now he probably wonít graduate because heís a D/F student. The scouts have completely stopped calling us about him now.îIn a separate interview with The New Falcon Herald, DeGeorge said the school instituted new software at the end of November that keeps teachers from having to hand-calculate the grades for each of their students. The previous method left room for error but the automatic calculating system allows for more consistency for the SBG system. ìWe are listening to the community and their concerns, and one thing to come out of that was this automated system,î she said.Corey Ping Ohlrich, who also attended the meeting, spoke to The New Falcon Herald in a subsequent interview. ìWe are still at the middle and elementary school level, and we went to the meeting just to hear and watch it unfold. The meeting really made us open our eyes a little more.ìIt appears that the teachers and administration have no consistency in how they grade. Students are being treated the exact same, but there is very little consideration of different learning styles. Students are not being graded on what their abilities are.îOhlrich said she has joined the Facebook discussion on FHSís grading system, and conversations indicate there is fear concerning SBG. Many people want to reinstitute the traditional system, she said.Bruce Grose, principal at Vista Ridge High School, said they have implemented the grading system in phases, which has been successful. ìWeíre trying to do a better job of providing more information so parents, students and teachers have a clear understanding of the grading system,î he said.ìWe implemented the system very, very quickly, and it was not phased in,î DeGeorge said.ìVista Ridge learned a lot about what not to do from Falcon High School.ìI always want whatís best for the kids. If I thought it was harming students in any way, I would certainly say that it needs to go away.î

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