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updated: 6/18/2013 12:49 PM

U-46 grading changes means no score below 50 for students

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Changes to the Elgin Area School District U-46 grading scale were never intended to be issues requiring school board approval. After weeks of intense opposition by some teachers and parents, the board's newest members -- Frank Napolitano and Veronica Noland -- pushed for a vote anyway.

It isn't going to happen.

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Bartlett High School students will begin next year with possible grades of 50 to 100. The lower half of the traditional scale will be eliminated, which means As, Bs, Cs and Ds will not change, but Es -- the traditional F for U-46 -- will span scores of 50 to 59 instead of 0-59.

Elgin, Larkin, South Elgin and Streamwood High Schools will implement 0 to 5 scales, which accomplish the same result for U-46 administrators who are trying to make every letter grade reflect an equal range of scores -- i.e. 10 points for a failing grade just like 10 points for an A or one point for each on the 0-5 scale.

"What we're doing is we're adjusting the grade so that a teacher's average ... is mathematically justified," said Streamwood High School Principal Terri Lozier, who co-presented about the grading changes during Monday's school board meeting.

Administrators added the presentation to the board agenda in the face of community outrage about the change to give further detail about the research leading up to it. A committee of teachers and administrators worked for more than two years before making their recommendation.

The presentation was never meant to lead up to a board vote.

The school board policy concerning grading at the secondary level says that letter grades must be used for middle and high school students. There is no recommendation to change that and therefore nothing for the board to vote on.

In this case, Noland and Napolitano wanted to make an exception to the rule about the board voting only on changes to its policies and leaving the rest to staff members because of the importance of this particular issue.

The other board members disagreed.

"Every one of us who was elected was elected into an existing governance model," board member Traci O'Neal Ellis said. "If we want to change the governance model then let's appropriately have that conversation."

Streamwood High School teacher Claudia Martinez-Carter suggested asking teachers to vote, if not board members. Teachers had the opportunity to choose between the 0-5 scale and the 50-100 scale but had no option of keeping the traditional design.

About a dozen people spoke during the public comment portion of the board meeting in opposition to the change, arguing it would reduce standards, encourage students to do less and unfairly inflate grades.

But supporters stressed that the changes actually are meant to increase motivation and achievement.

"There's nothing to say that we have to have a 0-100 scale," Superintendent José Torres said . "Someone made it up, we bought it. We're saying that we've got to change the paradigm."

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