Hilton Head school board reps hear from parents on grade floors, communication

tbarton@islandpacket.comApril 25, 2013 

From left, school board members Mike Sanz, Mary Cordray and JoAnn Orischak listen as Pamela Maddox, acting principal at Hilton Head Middle School, asks a question during the town hall meeting on Thursday night.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

  • Five Bluffton area Board of Education members have scheduled a town hall meeting to solicit feedback from constituents from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Bluffton Town Hall, 20 Bridge St. Parking will be available in the bus parking lot at M.C. Riley Elementary School.

A group of Hilton Head Island parents and community members oppose the use of grade floors, support the International Baccalaureate program and, at times, feel unwelcome in schools.

Nearly 20 of them gathered Thursday evening at a town hall meeting organized by three Beaufort County Board of Education members. The trio represent parts of Hilton Head and wanted to solicit feedback from constituents.

Board Vice Chairman Mary Cordray and members JoAnn Orischak and Mike Sanz asked the group how it feels about the grading practice some say gives struggling students a chance to recover from failure. Others see it as grade inflation and social promotion.

The assembled crowd almost unanimously felt grades floors misrepresent a student's knowledge and a teacher's performance, and fail to address the root cause for why a student is struggling.

"Grade floors are a bad idea," said native islander Irvin Campbell.

Some parents advocated eliminating the 100-point grading scale and supported reform that leads to fairer, more accurate student assessments.

Grading floors, used in some or all courses at about a dozen schools in the district, essentially gives a student a higher "F" on a report card. If, for example, a student earns a 45 percent during a quarter, it would show up as a 60 percent. The higher grade prevents the student from falling too far behind and allows another chance to pass before semester grades are issued, principals have said.

Most of the forum, though, focused on parents' complaints about lack of engagement with school and district officials. They called for better communication and a more welcoming school environment.

"One reason why you didn't have too many parents here is because of the last-minute notice," Campbell said of not getting an email about Thursday's meeting until a day before it was held.

He and other parents say they want to be more involved -- and would be -- if given more notice. They also want the topics and purposes of meetings communicated clearly, preferably through email. Others asked for varied meeting times and formats to better accommodate parents' busy schedules.

Another parent said he is often intimidated by school or academic "lingo."

"A lot of parents do not understand our language and we've got to realize that in our meetings," said acting Hilton Head Middle School principal Pamela Maddox.

Orischak, Sanz and Cordray thanked group and said they'd discuss its suggestions with other board members.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom

Related content:

Beaufort County educators see need to reform grading system: April 8, 2013

International Baccalaureate program approved at Hilton Head Middle, High schools: March 12, 2012

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