Wilton education board votes to keep unweighted grading system

After postponing the vote on weighted grades, the Board of Education finally made a decision — Wilton schools will not convert to a weighted grading system.

The decision was finalized by a 5-2 vote during the board’s March 31 meeting. Superintendent Kevin Smith and board members Chris Stroup, Lory Rothstein, Laura Schwemm and Glenn Hemmerle voted against a weighted grading system, while Board of Education Chair Bruce Likly and board member Christine Finkelstein voted in favor.

Last year, the board’s Communication, Alignment and Policy Committee started exploring the idea of possibly revising the school district’s weighted grades policy, which was adopted in 1999.

A heavily attended public discussion on weighted grades was held last spring, followed by workshops, consultations, reviews and further research. Other than the fact that 70% of school districts weight grades, said Likly, “there was not a lot of empirical data that says [a weighted grade system] is beneficial or detrimental.”

Since last April, the education board has received mixed feedback from community members — some in favor of weighted grades and some opposing.

“We’ve heard from parents who came forward and told us how they had been adversely affected by our failure to weight grades in the college admissions process,” said Finkelstein.

“I really think we need to listen to these people. These are parents who are on the frontlines. They’re out there going through the college admissions process and they're talking candidly with admissions officers who are telling them, ‘Yes, your child is not getting into this university because the weighted grades matter.’”

Finkelstein said weighting grades would recognize the college-level work Wilton students perform during high school, which is something, she said, “they ought to be rewarded for.”

“It’s about leveling the playing field so when our kids get to their [schools of choice], they have an equal shot of getting in,” she said. “Wilton does so much to make our kids competitive. I really think this is one tool we’re denying our kids.”

Parent feedback

The last parent to provide feedback to the board prior to its vote was Belden Hill Road resident Stacy Crameri, a Belden Hill Road resident and mother of three Wilton public school students, who addressed the board during its March 31 meeting.

“Having three children in the school system, I see three different academic personalities,” she said, “and so I would assume in a high school of over 1,000 students, you have quite a few academic personalities.”

Crameri said she believes the district should be supporting and encouraging students to work to their fullest abilities — “whether that’s as a senior in a statistics class or a senior in an AP Calculus class” — and “shouldn’t separate those types of individual students based on grades.”

“I think if you’ve worked to your hardest ability and you earned a B in that statistics class, then that’s what you earned,” she said. “If you have worked your hardest ability in that AP Calculus, then that’s what you should receive.”

“I know parents will say, ‘It’s a competitive world out there in the college process,’ and having just gone through it [with] my son, I had sleepless nights because he did not save a third world country and did not take any AP or honors courses,” said Crameri.

“But much to our surprise, and also through his hard work, he did get into a college. It was one of his top choices, and he did it because he worked to his ability and the college looked at his application and knew that he was the right student for them.”

Crameri said the first time she met Smith, he spoke about his vision for the district.

“His vision was that students come first, and reading that his recommendation is that we do not do weighted grades, I ask you as the board [to] let him lead this district,” she said. “That’s why you hired him, and if that’s his recommendation based on his feedback, let’s do what he recommends.”

Schwemm pointed out that local experts at last spring’s public discussion said colleges look not only at the grade-point-average (GPA), but transcripts and the rigor of classes as well — which is what Crameri said she and her son experienced.

“GPA is one data point. They are still looking at what classes you took, and transcripts will still reflect the grades you earned in those classes,” said Schwemm. “They’re still going to see whether you got an A, B or a C.”

Schwemm said her stance on weighted grades goes back to the district’s vision and she doesn’t believe the district is “doing a disservice” by not weighting grades.

“It’s not a question of who gets into what college. We’re here for every student,” she said. “We’re helping our children. We’re providing better education and we should be focusing on the work we need to do, which is teaching and learning and preparing our children for what comes next.”