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School board holds public meeting on weighted grades

December 10, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education essentially was preaching to the choir as 10 people, nearly all school faculty members or individuals with ties to the board, attended a public hearing Tuesday evening on the issue of weighted grades.

The meeting lasted 35 minutes.

Board officials heard little to no criticism of a plan that will, if adopted, increase the importance of Advanced Placement courses in determining students' grade point averages.

Patricia Abernethy, board deputy superintendent, said dissension was not expected because of the lack of negative feedback the board received before the meeting. Abernethy said a new system of weighted grades likely would encourage students to take more AP courses because a "B" would not have a negative impact on their averages.

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She said provosts and admissions officers have told her they take note of how many Advanced Placement classes a student has taken.

"They're looking at the difficulty of the classes," Abernethy said. "In our (current) system, there is no advantage to taking Advanced Placement as opposed to honors courses."

Abernethy also said implementing a weighted system will put local students on a level playing field with other students across the county whose school boards already have them.

Under the proposed policy, an "A" in Advanced Placement courses - college-level classes taught according to a national curriculum linked to a national assessment - would equal five points. A "B" in any of the 26 Advanced Placement courses would equal four points under the altered policy. Four points is the current weight for an "A" in a nonweighted course.

Currently, an "A" in both Advanced Placement and accelerated honors courses is worth 4.72 and a "B" is worth 3.54. Eight of the accelerated honors courses will stay on the same scale if the proposal is adopted, according to Public Information Officer Carol Mowen.

Mowen said the board is scheduled to vote on the issue at its Jan. 6 meeting.

Board of Education Student Representative Brian Williamson, a North Hagerstown High School junior, said the issue is not controversial among students.

"If you're willing to take the challenge, you are rewarded for it," Williamson said. "If not, you're not penalized. It's a good thing."

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