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Pinellas school officials propose change in grading periods

Pinellas middle and high school students would receive fewer report cards next year under a proposal to change the length of grading periods.

Pinellas County Schools' calendar committee is recommending that the School Board approve "quarters," or four nine-week grading periods, for the 2014-15 school year.

Middle and high schools currently operate on six six-week grading periods, while elementary schools have three 12-week grading periods.

Pam Moore, associate superintendent for teaching and learning, said the proposed change is "a positive for parents" because of the consistency across grade levels. "It doesn't change instruction whatsoever," Moore said.

However, it's not yet clear how semester grades would shake out.

"The possible semester grade calculations for nine-week grading periods are part of the research being conducted to support the proposal," said Melanie Marquez Parra, a spokeswoman for the district.

A task force of district officials and teachers union leaders recommended the switch for middle and high schools last summer. They said longer grading periods would give students a better chance to recover from poor marks early on and allow more time for instruction because teachers would spend less time reporting grades.

Kim Black, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, said teachers needed the planning time back that they lost when early-release Wednesdays were eliminated for this school year.

"The thought was that by going to the nine-week cycle, since you weren't constantly measuring the students, you'd have time to educate them and really let them grow," Black said.

Ron Ciranna, assistant superintendent for human resources and co-chairman of the calendar committee, said his team consulted with principals across all levels. "I think it's something everyone's in agreement with, meaning all the principals and teachers," he said.

"It offers consistency, especially for parents with children in all three grade levels: They know when to expect report cards."

Ciranna described the proposed change as "a long time coming."

Moore said she was unsure why the current system, with 12 weeks for elementary school students and six weeks for secondary students, had been set. About six or seven years ago, some high schools operated on nine-week schedules, Moore said.

The proposal would need support from the School Board, which is expected to discuss it at an upcoming meeting. Terry Krassner, the board's representative on the calendar committee, said "there was a lot of strong rationale" on the panel. "I think it's more in line with what the colleges do," Krassner said.

With the idea still just a proposal, district officials acknowledged there were details to be worked out.

Carol Sampey said her two children at Clearwater Fundamental Middle were ambivalent about nine-week grading periods because they thought it might mean their block schedules would rotate less often.

Her older child, at Osceola Fundamental High, liked the proposal, Sampey said. "Six weeks is such a short period that if you screw up one test, you have a hard time making up the grade."

Lisa Gartner can be reached at lgartner@tampabay.com. Follow her on Twitter @lisagartner.

Pinellas school officials propose change in grading periods 01/08/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 11:37pm]
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