Wilton middle school: Grades won’t drop in fourth quarter
WILTON — Though opposition remained from one member, the Board of Education went forward on Thursday night, April 30, with approving Middlebrook School’s fourth-quarter grading plan.
Last week after it approved new fourth-quarter grading plans for the other schools in relation to new distance-learning practices, the board tabled the vote on Middlebrook after several members expressed disapproval with the plan.
“I still don’t agree,” said member Jennifer Lalor, the lone dissenting vote, noting she had heard from a number of Middlebrook parents who were not in favor of the plan.
But Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith stood by the recommendation from principal Lauren Feltz, acknowledging his belief in their judgment.
“I support them … I trust them. They really do have in mind, I think, what’s best for their kids,” he said.
Like Wilton High School, Middlebrook will be putting a fourth-quarter policy into place that braces grades based on student performance from the previous three quarters, ensuring that the grade cannot go lower even if work or performance deteriorates in the last marking period.
Unlike the high school, however, which is incentivizing students with a small opportunity to up that grade by one measure — for instance so that a C+ can become a B-, or an A- can become an A — Middlebrook will not offer that option.
“I still don’t understand … There’s no incentive for them,” Lalor said, noting both students with low grades and those with high ones.
“It’s not just those kids who really need the motivation to try. It’s the other kids also,” she said, noting she didn’t see a downside in allowing the chance to raise the grade further.
Following last week’s postponement, board Chair Deborah Low asked Feltz to go back to her staff and review board concerns.
Though she said last week that feelings about it were mixed among staff, Feltz said her staff leadership was now unanimous in its recommendation. What she described as a lengthy report prepared by herself and her staff restating their reasoning was presented to board members for review earlier this week, but it wasn’t made available to the public.
“We are the experts in this developmental stage,” Feltz said. “We have given this careful, thoughtful, deliberate consideration and we thought it would be a disservice to our children to proceed differently.”
She repeated that the root to motivating students in this age group centered on their connection to their teachers.
“I think that we are different from a high school. Our kids are at a different developmental stage,” she said, acknowledging “a lot of really warm feedback from families” on this issue.
She said teachers would still be adding personal comments to report cards, which would reflect how the student worked and performed during the fourth quarter under the e-learning model.
“The way children did or did not persist in the fourth quarter would certainly be reflected in those comments,” Feltz said.
Lalor suggested that Feltz and her staff survey Middlebrook parents before the board came to a decision and revise the plan based on that information.
“In terms of process, I think it’s up to Kevin and the principals to recommend the grading,” she said.
“With respect to you, Jen, I certainly hear your objections,” she said, having indicated similar concerns last week, “But I think we’d be remiss to ask them to go back and ask them to do a different process,” especially with so little time left in the year.
“We’re going to, perhaps, come down on two different sides, but I think it’s time to get this issue decided,” Low said before calling the vote, which passed 5-1.