The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

March 7, 2013

ECPS revises attendance, exam, progress and grant policies

Miranda Baines

TARBORO — Exemption from exams will no longer be offered to students in Edgecombe County Public Schools (ECPS).

A revised attendance policy will reflect the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s mandate that all students enrolled in certain grades/ subjects take Measures of Student Learning (common exams) as part of the state’s new educator effectiveness model. Previously, ECPS students with a combination of good grades and excellent attendance in a course had the option of not taking the final course exam.

“We are removing that incentive for attendance,” Karen Dameron, associate superintendent of operational services, told the board at a Monday evening work session. Dameron said new incentives for outstanding attendance would be developed in place of exam exemption.

“In each course that offers credit toward high school graduation, an examination shall be administered at the conclusion of each semester,” the new attendance policy states. “High school examinations required by the State Board of Education shall count 25 percent of the final grade.”

The new policy will come before the board for approval at its regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the central office boardrooms at 412 Pearl St. in Tarboro.

The revised attendance policy would also give principals more authority to determine whether or not a student’s absence from school will be excused. The policy names reasons for excused absences, including death in the immediate family and personal illness, but also includes the following statement:

“The principal may excuse temporary or occasional absences for other reasons in accordance with board policies, provided that the student has been in attendance for at least one-half of a school day during the current school year.”

A new policy addressing evaluation of student progress is also up for board approval.

“Each student in grades kindergarten through eight will receive a report card at the end of the nine-week assessment,” Dameron told the board, reading from the new policy. Under the old policy, students in kindergarten through second grade received only an assessment report at the end of the nine-week grading period.

Board member Olga Dickens expressed a concern voiced to her by a parent, about the possibility of students receiving a “0” for the grading period, and becoming discouraged about learning, She suggested that teachers use the seven-point grading scale, where an “F” might be a grade of 63-69 and students would not receive any grade lower than a 63.

“If we’re going to a growth model, we should have an opportunity for children to grow. When you look at the test the way the test is written now, it’s not based on regurgitation of information; it’s based on application,” Dickens stated. “It’s giving somebody a chance.”

Dr. Evelyn Johnson, board member, pointed out that the state’s new education standards are designed to make the district’s students competitive “not just with Edgecombe County but with everybody.”

Dameron responded to Dickens by explaining that five different components factor into a child’s grade at the end of the nine weeks, according to the new policy – homework, projects, reports, class participation and tests.

“If he (a child) is ending up with a ‘0’ at the end of that nine-week period, that means in none of those areas the child has been successful,” she said.

Board chair Ann Kent voiced her disagreement with Dickens, stating that a child’s grade is “earned” by that child, not something that is “given” to him/ her.  Board member William Keith Pittman also disagreed, stating that Dickens’ proposed scale would foster a “what are you going to give me” attitude among children that would ultimately inhibit learning and growth.

The final revised policy up for board approval at Monday’s meeting deals with grants and funding for special projects. The new policy would give Superintendent John Farrelly more authority to apply for grants and funding for the district. While the board would need to be notified of all funds awarded, Farrelly would be able to pursue grants without seeking prior board approval.