Weighted-grade system OK’d for Mehlville School District

New grading system to begin for freshmen, sophomores of ’08-’09 school year

By MIKE ANTHONY

Current freshmen at the Mehlville School District’s two high schools will be able to take advantage of a weighted-grade system that will go into effect next fall.

The Board of Education voted unanimously last week to adopt the weighted-grade system for freshmen and sophomores beginning with the 2008-2009 school year.

A committee comprised of district administrators, counselors, teachers, parents, students and school-board members had been studying the issue since August and recommended that a system of weighted grades be established next fall for incoming freshmen.

During a period for public comment Dec. 13, three speakers discussed weighted grades, including a parent who served on the Weighted-Grade Committee.

Committee member Denise Bayer told the board that the time to establish a weighted-grade system was “long overdue. This is an opportunity for the Mehlville School District to raise the bar for all of its students. It is also an opportunity for the Mehlville School District to raise its standards of excellence and shine within the educational system of Missouri. I request that the Board of Education strongly consider this implementation of weighted grades in current freshman class of 2011.

“No freshman has yet taken a Dual-Credit or Advanced Placement class that would affect his or her opportunity within the weighted-grade class-ranking system. The concerns that some students would have reduced their selection of courses had they known it would impact their class rank is one of great concern. Any student that would reduce their course selection merely for class-rank purposes does not recognize the value of their education. These type of students would seem to be gaming their opportunities for class rank. I don’t believe that a school system would want to recognize that student as a valedictorian …,” she said.

Two Oakville Senior High students, Chelsea Schneringer and Melissa Edwards, urged the board to establish weighted grades for all students at the high school.

Schneringer said, “… I am here tonight to present you a petition in favor of having weighted grades for everyone at Oakville. I know the committee had been discussing implementing weighted grades for only the incoming freshmen in 2008. I have collected over 300 signatures from the students and staff of Oakville that support weighted grades for the whole student body …”

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Connie Hurst-Bayless, Mehlville High School Principal Vince Viviano and Oakville High School Principal Bill Scheffler had been asked to form the committee to study weighted grades. The three presented the committee’s recommendations to the board last week. Besides recommending weighted grades be established next fall for incoming freshmen, the committee:

• Recommended that weighted grades be given for Advanced Placement , or AP, and Dual-Credit courses.

• Recommended that AP courses receive a 1.0 per year — 0.5 per semester — bump if the student earns a C or above.

• Recommended that Dual-Credit courses receive a 0.75 bump — 0.375 per semester — if the student earns a C or above.

• Recommended to institute the following recognition of academic excellence — students earning a grade-point average of 4.1 and above will be recognized as summa cum laude; students earning 3.8 to 4.09 will be recognized as magna cum laude; and students earning 3.5 to 3.79 will be recognized as cum laude. The student with the highest GPA will be named valedictorian. The student with the second highest GPA will be named salutatorian.

• Recommended that for transfer students, based on the student’s transcript from another school district(s), any AP or Dual-Credit courses offered by the Mehlville School District will be given weighted grades.

• Recommended that a Weighted-Grade Committee reconvene biennially.

After the presentation, board Vice President Karl Frank Jr. made a motion to accept the committee’s recommendations as presented. Frank’s motion was seconded by board member Larry Felton.

After a lengthy discussion, board member Ken Leach made a substitute motion to establish weighted grades beginning next fall with current freshmen. Board member Venki Palamand, who served on the committee, seconded Leach’s motion.

Frank and Felton voted against the substitute motion, which was approved with a 5-2 vote. Frank noted that board members did not hear “the full argument” from those committee members who supported starting the system next year for incoming freshmen. At one point, Felton suggested approving the committee’s recommendations as presented with the exception of starting with incoming freshmen next fall and having the panel reconsider that issue.

But Frank and Felton joined the rest of the board to adopt the weighted-grade system starting with current freshmen next fall — a decision that pleased Palamand.

“The goal is to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of students,” he told the Call. “Perhaps a few freshmen might have altered their schedules this year had they known. On the other hand, by starting with this year’s freshman class — Class of 2011, instead waiting for the Class of 2012 — we are challenging and encouraging an additional 1,000 students to take harder classes. No transition from one grading system to another will be perfect, but now we have a system in place that encourages and does not penalize students who wish to challenge themselves.”

The new system will encourage students to challenge themselves and will increase academic achievement, Palamand said.

“We are raising the bar on academic achievement and supporting students who strive for excellence,” he said. “Students who desire to be in the top 5 percent of their graduating class or wish to be valedictorian will now have to take more challenging classes and perform well in order to reach that goal. Other students who want to maintain a 3.0 or 3.5 GPA will not be ‘penalized,’ if I can call it that, by taking AP physics or AP chemistry or calculus. A B in AP physics will now be the same as an A in a non-weighted, easier class. This will encourage more students to challenge themselves and therefore be better prepared for success in college.”