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Shaler considers dropping floor on lowest grade possible

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Shaler Area School District leaders are looking into revising a policy that could eliminate limits on the lowest grade a student can receive.

Now, students can earn the highest score of 100 percent and the lowest score of 55 percent on report cards. The policy was intended to provide a “safety net” for students who have an extenuating circumstance or experience a tragedy; however, the policy is being used by students to avoid completing assignments while still passing a class, Superintendent Wes Shipley said.

“We cannot continue to have a catchall of 55 percent that allows students to walk away from their responsibilities,” Shipley said.

Under the grading scale, an F is 63.49 percent and lower.

Shipley assembled a committee of teachers to recommend a solution. They found that in the 2012-13 school year, the 55-percent floor was used 1,073 times in the high school, including 185 times on midterms and 453 times on final exams.

“I've seen (this type of policy) before,” Shipley said. “I've never seen it abused the way it's happening.”

The committee recommended lowering the floor to 30 percent as the lowest percentage a student could get on a report card and eliminating that lower limit on midterms and final exams.

However, some school board members questioned the need to set the lowest percentage recorded at all.

“It's for extenuating circumstances, and I'm thinking the number of or percentage of extenuating circumstances doesn't warrant this,” board member Suzanna Donahue said.

“When we have on our wall ‘We strive for excellence' … this doesn't say that to me.”

High school Principal Tim Royall said teachers work with students who are in extenuating circumstances, and they do not need a grading floor in the policy to do that.

“My personal opinion is to have a zero floor across the board,” Royall said. “I think it would encourage children to work harder. I would highly recommend natural grades.”

Shipley said he would take the school board's concerns back to the committee for a revised recommendation.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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