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Greensburg Salem debates grading beyond 4.0

| Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

A committee of Greensburg Salem educators, administrators and others will release the results of a study on the merits and drawbacks of weighted grades next month.

Superintendent Eileen Amato told the school board that the findings will be shared during its March 6 session.

“A small committee of teachers and counselors will present a summary of the overall work, research and findings conducted by the entire committee,” said Kenneth Bissell, district coordinator of secondary education and instruction.

The 20-member panel was formed last year after school directors questioned whether there was a need for weighted classes.

Amato said education experts hold differing views on the complex issue.

Greensburg Salem students can only achieve up to a 4.0 grade point average, even with Advanced Placement or honors classes.

The district stopped using weighted grades in the 1990s because of “fundamental beliefs that a student's program of study should be shaped by the student's identified needs, abilities, post-graduation plans and interests rather than a GPA,” according to the district website.

Students taking more difficult classes should be rewarded through a weighted system for taking those courses, advocates believe.

Among topics the committee was formed to look at are:

• What are the advantages and disadvantages of weighted grades?

• What are the options for weighting?

• What are the advantages and disadvantages of ranking students?

The committee has reviewed grading practices and how students are recognized during graduation ceremonies, Bissell said.

During the 2012 graduation ceremony, students with a 4.0 average were recognized as a group.

Of the 264 students graduating in 2009, 12 had a 4.0 grade point average, according to the district. Another 47 students earned between 3.75 and 3.99, while 34 students obtained a 3.5 to 3.74 average.

A disadvantage with a weighted system might be that students can be talented in a certain discipline, such as the arts, but not earn the same recognition because other disciplines, such as science courses, have a higher weighting, according to Amato. After the committee shares its findings directors and administrators will discuss how the district will apply the findings to the curriculum and grading, Bissell said.

Last week, the Franklin Regional school board broached the possibility of honoring any student as a valedictorian who achieves a cumulative academic-weight rank of 4.4 or higher.

A class rank of “1” would be reported on the transcript of each of those students, beginning with the Class of 2017. During the past three years, between eight and 12 students would have met that criteria, according to Ron Suvak, senior high school principal.

“My first inclination is we celebrate the difference between a hundredth of a second in swimming every weekend, one stroke in golf,” said. Joe Seymour, vice president of the board. “My initial reaction is this is almost fodder for laughter.”

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or Staff writer Amdanda Dolasinski contributed.