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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Hernando no-zero policy faces stiff opposition

BROOKSVILLE — A controversial proposal to eliminate zeroes from Hernando’s elementary school grade books faces stiff resistance from School Board members and won’t come up for a vote this month after all.

Two proposed changes to the district’s grading policy have been pulled from the agenda of the regular meeting on July 28 and instead will be discussed during a workshop, school board attorney Paul Carland said Wednesday.

Carland said he wasn’t told by superintendent Wayne Alexander why the item was pulled or when the workshop will take place. Neither Alexander nor board Chairwoman Dianne Bonfield returned messages Wednesday.

But three school board members said in interviews Wednesday that that they have all-but made up their minds and won’t support either of the changes.

Board member Sandra Nicholson said her message to the district is this: “Don’t waste your time, energy or money on any more research. Forget the whole thing.”

One change would set a minimum grade of 40 percent for elementary students who miss an assignment or test. Zeroes would be a thing of the past.

The other proposal: Students who do turn something in but fail would receive no lower than a 49 percent.

The changes had been set to come up for a vote during the July 28 along with several other revisions and additions to the district’s policy handbook. They were presented to the five-member board during a workshop last month, and board members discussed them only briefly.

Hernando’s curriculum specialists say the goal is to create consistency in grading policy to soften the often crippling effect that zeroes and very low scores can have on a student’s overall grade. Alexander told the board last month that after a few zeroes, a child can “shut off” and not recover.

With the proposal, Hernando enters a heated philosophical debate in the education world.
Supporters say nixing zeroes and increasing the minimum F is a way to end what they see as a punitive approach to grading that can make it difficult for students to turn a semester around. Opponents say such policies lower standards and send the wrong message to students.

Hernando would be the first district in the Tampa Bay area to go that route, but it appears unlikely to happen soon.

“I don’t see where that’s going to help the student in the long run,” Boar member James Yant said.

Board members said they’ve been flooded with input since the proposal was reported by local media last month.

“I’ve gotten more emails on this issue than anything else, and everyone who has contacted me is against it,” Nicholson said.

She said some have suggested that the board set a district policy to allow students to turn in assignments late and get a reduced grade.

“But nobody thinks they should get something for nothing, and most of them reference the real world,” Nicholson said.

“The kids need to learn to study and do their homework and earn the grades they deserve,” Board member Pat Fagan said. “We need to find a way to work with them to make sure they learn.”

Still, the board members said they’re still willing to take part in a debate during a workshop.

“I always try to keep an open mind, but they would have to come up with something really spectacular to change my opinion on this,” Nicholson said. “I just don’t see it happening.”
- Tony Marrero

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:28am]


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