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Hernando School Board balks at giving zeroes a pass

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 regular July 28 agenda and instead will be discussed during a workshop, school board attorney Paul Carland said Wednesday.

He 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 of the five School Board members said that they have all-but made up their minds and won't support the changes.

"I've gotten more e-mails on this issue than anything else, and everyone who has contacted me is against it," said board member Sandra Nicholson.

Her message to the district was: "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 recommended changes were first presented to the board during a workshop last month. If approved, Hernando would be the first district in the Tampa Bay area to go that route.

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.

The proposal thrust Hernando into a heated philosophical debate in the education world.

Supporters say nixing zeroes and increasing the minimum F is a way to end punitive 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.

"The kids need to learn to study and do their homework and earn the grades they deserve," board member Pat Fagan said.

Board member James Yant also opposes eliminating zeroes. "I don't see where that's going to help the student in the long run," he said.

Nicholson said some parents have suggested allowing 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.

Nevertheless, the three board members said they're still willing to debate the issue 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.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando School Board balks at giving zeroes a pass 07/08/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 10:37pm]
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