Notes from the Board Table: weighted grades, searches, budget
The April 23 Board of Education meeting included an in-depth discussion on the topic of weighted grades. We heard from members of the Wilton High School faculty and guidance department, and from independent educational consultant Dr. Matthew Greene, all of whom shared their unique insights, experiences and thoughts on the weighted grades topic.
At issue, is whether or not Wilton should change its current policy and start offering additional credit for Advanced Placement and Honors courses, a practice known as grade “weighting.” Currently, Wilton is the only school in our district reference group (DRG-A) that does not weight grades. In addition, as Dr. Greene informed us, at least 70% of public high schools nationwide have in place some type of grade weighting system.
As we have come to realize, this is a very complicated issue. For one thing, there is no such thing as a uniform weighted grades policy. Instead, each high school has adopted its own grading policy. One school may award an additional point for an AP course, while another may only give a half-point.
WHS College and Career Center Coordinator Christine Collins explained that because of the wide disparity in grading policies, colleges will usually “deconstruct” a student’s grade-point average, and rebuild it based on the college’s own formula. Or, a college may disregard the GPA altogether, and instead focus on a student’s achievements in a number of areas.
Beyond the effect of weighted grades in the college admissions process, we must also consider any impact on the Wilton High School culture. Will students push themselves to take AP courses, despite recommendations from teachers that they may not be capable of handling the coursework, which may result in poor performance and high levels of stress? Will enrollment in non-weighted electives decline? How will students working to the best of their ability in non-AP courses react to the grading change?
We have heard from many members of the community on this topic. I have been very impressed by the students who have written in support of weighting grades. Our students tell us that under the current policy, they do not feel their hard work is being recognized.
We have posted on the BOE website all letters that have been received on the weighted grades issue. Names and identifying information have been removed, but we felt it was important to make the community aware of the arguments that have been presented, on both sides of this issue. We have also posted a copy of the presentation Dr. Greene shared with us. Of special interest are the slides that detail the grading policies of some of the nation’s most prestigious high schools. Most of these schools do not weight grades, but each has its own twist on how student performance is recognized.
Our next step will be to continue the conversation with a board workshop, which will take place within the next few weeks. We will announce the date and post it on our website as soon as it becomes available.
If you have an opinion, I encourage you to share your thoughts by contacting the board at BOE@wilton.k12.ct.us.
I also want to make you aware of changes that were approved to the district’s “School Premises Search and Seizure” policy. Specifically, the board approved the use of detection dogs for use on a proactive basis to deter students from bringing illicit materials to school. Detection dogs will be used at WHS and at Middlebrook. The first scheduled search will be announced to the school community, but subsequent searches will be unannounced.
The use of canine searches will be one more tool to use in keeping our schools free of illicit materials, including illegal drugs, alcohol and contraband. We will work closely with the Wilton Police Department to develop a detailed plan for the use of detection dogs. Meanwhile, we have posted a “fact sheet” on the BOE website that provides additional information about why we believe the detection dogs are necessary, and how the searches will be conducted.
Finally, the budget. Please mark your calendar for the annual Town Meeting which will take place next Tuesday, May 5, at 7:30 p.m. in Middlebrook auditorium. Voting on the budget will take place immediately after the meeting, and will continue on Saturday, May 9 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., in the Clune Center.