Some Beaufort County residents would like to see stricter use of grade floors, more thorough teacher evaluations and greater collaboration by the school district and charter schools.
Those were the comments shared Tuesday night by a group of 10 parents and residents who gathered at Port Royal Town Hall for a forum organized by five Beaufort County Board of Education members who represent northern parts of the county.
Board chairman Bill Evans and members Jim Beckert, Earl Campbell, Geri Kinton and Michael Rivers asked the group about grade floors, used in some or all courses at about a dozen schools in the district.
The grading practice, which some say gives struggling students a chance to recover, essentially gives them 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.
Others call it grade inflation and social promotion.
The crowd gathered Tuesday had mixed responses to the floors.
Retired teacher and Sun City Hilton Head resident Pat Higgins "absolutely objects" to grade floors, saying they misrepresent a student's knowledge and a teacher's performance, and fail to address the root cause for why a student is struggling.
"I think it's a complete disservice to students," Higgins said. "The child has to know from the beginning that his job is to listen and do well, and, if he doesn't understand, ask to have it explained again. And it's the teacher's responsibility to make sure he does understand."
Battery Creek High School parent Michelle Morgan believes some sort of middle ground should be reached to help students who have fallen behind in their course work for medical reasons. Morgan also said grade floors should be limited to the first and second quarters of the school year.
An ad hoc committee of the school board has been reviewing grade floor policies and gathering feedback from parents, residents, teachers and principals.
The school district has been criticized for enacting inconsistent policies.
The board is scheduled to vote on the issue at its May 21 meeting, Evans said.
Former school board chairman Fred Washington, who was ousted in the November general election by Rivers in a three-man race for the redrawn seat, raised the issue of school choice.
"Before endorsing new schools, let's look at how we can accommodate the need for better choices within the existing pubic school structure," Washington said, referring to a group of parents and local educators who applied this month to open a new charter school in the county. The group says the move would meet a growing demand for Montessori education.
Board members agreed there needs to be greater collaboration with charter schools to provide expanded choices for parents.
"We need healthy competition, but we can't leave out public schools in the process" - so as to avoid a fractured, adversarial education system in Beaufort County, Kinton said.