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Parents: Grade scale a 'disadvantage'

District will conduct survey

Staff writer

A group of parents urged the USD 410 Board of Education on Monday to change the grading scale at Hillsboro schools.

The parents said the high school’s grading scale — which requires a 94 percent or above for an A, 86 percent for a B, 78 percent for a C, and 70 percent to pass — puts Hillsboro High School graduates at a disadvantage when applying to colleges and for scholarships compared with students who are graded on a 90-80-70-60 scale.

“A 4.0 in Hillsboro is different than a 4.0 in another school, and that’s what we want to talk about,” Glenn Wiebe said.

Wiebe said his son, Jake, missed out on a $17,000 scholarship because he didn’t have a 4.0 grade-point average, but if HHS had a 90 percent cutoff for A’s, he would have a 4.0 GPA. Because he didn’t get that scholarship, he couldn’t go to the college he wanted to attend.

Board President Eddie Weber said he thought the grading scale was an issue when he joined the board. But then-Superintendent Gordon Mohn assured him that students who are committed to earning As will do so, regardless of the grading scale.

“If you want an A, you’re going to get an A,” Weber quoted Mohn.

Wiebe said the parents’ request wasn’t about lowering standards.

“We can still demand a lot from our kids with a 90-80-70-60 grading scale,” he said.

Kandis Pankratz said her family was fortunate when a college noticed that HHS had a tougher grading scale and called to work out what her child’s GPA would have been on a traditional scale. Most colleges don’t ask what scale a student was graded on, she said.

Board member Rod Koons said he was concerned whether changing the grading scale might affect C-average students. Lower expectations could harm them after high school, he said.

Superintendent Steve Noble encouraged the board to consider the proposal and make a decision in the future. He and school principals are conducting a survey of teachers, parents, and students about the grading scale in the meantime.

Patrons who signed a letter urging a change to the grading scale were Terry and Kandis Pankratz, Mike Jilka, DeLayne and Chris Herbel, Kevin and Cheryl Brandt, Doug and Debbie Dick, Bruce and Janell Heyen, Dallas and Paula Jost, and Glenn and Maura Wiebe.

School day to change

The district plans to change the school day to 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the fall. At HMS and HHS, students will have seven classes of 52 minutes each, plus a 30-minute learning support period.

HHS currently uses an eight-class block schedule. The school day runs 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

By establishing the same schedule for HHS and HMS, the district will be able to share more teachers between the schools. The district will also likely reduce the number of sections of some classes from three to two because of small class sizes.

Noble said the current block schedule is popular and the best option for learning, but the district has to find ways to save money.

The change still needs to be negotiated with teachers.

Virtual program considered

The board is considering establishing an online school program, similar to the one at Centre USD 397.

The district could either run a program itself using an online service or contract with a service center, Noble said.

Contracting with a service center would be the safer option, Noble said. However, the district operating it would give the board more control. Neither option is a money-making opportunity, he said. However, it would be a way to keep students in the district from turning to other online programs.

Targets for an online program would include dropout prevention, credit recovery, home school students, and parochial school students.

In other business:

  • Librarian Sandy Arnold recapped the events of Family Reading Night at Hillsboro Elementary School. More than 80 percent of the school’s students attended the event and participated in games, reading, crafts, skits, and songs. A total of 470 students and family members attended the event.
  • The board rejected all bids for a new sport utility vehicle for activity trips because of confusion about bid specifications. The SUV will be re-bid to make sure the district is comparing “apples to apples.”
  • Marion County Parents As Teachers Director Lori Soo Hoo reviewed the organization’s activities in the past year and urged the board to continue funding. USD 410 contributed $7,360 in 2010-11. Local school districts’ contributions totaled $25,000 and were used as matching funds for an additional $75,000 of grants.
  • The district is applying for a grant from Kansas Health Foundation to introduce foreign language learning programs at HES using Rosetta Stone software. HES Principal Evan Yoder said the program could also be used to help students for whom English is a second language and help their parents improve their skills in English.
  • Len Coryea was approved as an assistant track coach.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is 7 p.m. April 11.

Last modified March 17, 2011

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