School Board Revises Grading System, Class Ranking, Calendar

BY KAREN CAMPBELL

Weakley County Schools Communications Director

DRESDEN (March 4) — Members of the Weakley County School Board considered revisions to the grading system, class ranking and school calendars, during their monthly meeting at the Board of Education Conference Room held Thursday, March 4.

The board approved the first reading of a revision of the School Board policy addressing Grade Point Averages (GPA) for high school students.

According to Donald Ray High, the Instructional Supervisor for middle and high school, the County’s current system limits students to a maximum of 4.0 GPA reported on transcripts. The requested change would now allow students who take honors, dual enrollment, and AP classes to garner additional points and earn what is referred to as a “weighted GPA” which would be recorded, along with the regular GPA, on students’ transcripts.

While report cards will still reflect grades of 0 to 100, the weighted GPA is used to calculate final grades. For example, grades of A are 4 points; B’s are 3 points; C’s are 2 points; D’s are 1 point and F’s are 0. A student making a B in honors English would get 3 points, plus an additional 0.5 because the class is an honors class.

“Previously, a senior could only receive as high as a 4.0 on a transcript of academic achievement,” High noted. “With the final approval of this change, students can accumulate points that exceed 4.0. When colleges and universities are looking at transcripts, a 4.17 or 4.30 etc. is much more impressive and could translate into more scholarships.”

Several school systems in the area already utilize weighted GPAs because they take into account the course difficulty. In general, they operate on a 0 to 5.0 scale.

The use of weighted GPAs allows for moving away from the limited “Top Ten” focus to a broader opportunity for students to be more competitive for college acceptance, financial aid and scholarships.

In a related policy change addressing class ranking, after the first reading in March and upon final approval after the second reading in April, the class of 2024 (current freshmen) will be vying to be Weakley Scholars or School Level Scholars.

Weakley Scholars will be determined using a formula that combines the weighted GPA and an ACT score of 21 or higher and nets a “super score” of 1700 or higher. The change will allow for multiple valedictorians in a single class, Director of Schools Randy Frazier told the board, and thereby open up multiple scholarship opportunities from schools seeking to reward academic excellence.

Charger Scholars, Bulldog Scholars, Jacket Scholars, and Lion Scholars will be students who have achieved the salutatorian level by earning a “super score” of 1550. (They also must have an ACT score of 21 or higher.) Again, the opportunity to acknowledge multiple scholars allows for the possibility of multiple scholarships.

The Weakley County Board of Education voted to approve adjustments to the current calendar, approve the 2021-22 calendar, and expand opportunities for academic scholars.

The recent batch of “snow days” depleted the number of “banked” days Weakley County Schools accumulated during the year. To meet the state requirement of 180 days of class time, board members added one day to the current school year. Classes will now end on May 21.

The board calendar committee also received approval on the submitted calendar for 2021-2022. One change means teachers will not return until August. Traditionally, they begin their in-service in the latter part of July. First day of classes for students will be August 9. Fall break is set for October 11-15. Christmas break begins December 17, with students returning January 4. Spring break is March 21-25. The last day of classes will be May 24.

During discussion, board member Martin Hamlin relayed a conversation with Alex Britt, administrator of elections for the county, who asked that the board consider making schools available as election sites in May of 2022. The request came as Britt was aware of possible legislation being considered by the Tennessee General Assembly. The option was left open to adjust the calendar if needed in the future. Board member John Hatler added that he would like the board to consider making election days a school holiday in the future. No action was requested or taken.

In his report to the board, Frazier said anticipated Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds may be in hand sooner than previously announced. He noted that administrators are currently detailing how to utilize the monies. Items under consideration are the purchase of much-needed replacements for older computers and facility improvements.

He also announced state approval of requests related to the state-mandated summer camps. The submitted waiver asked for an adjustment from the initially legislated six weeks to four weeks of five hours per day. The approved schedule will go from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and include reading, RTI, math and physical activity. A waiver was also approved for the 24 hours of STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Math) mini-camps to be completed after school in the 2021-22 academic year rather than this summer.

He said benchmark tests that students have recently completed will be the determining factor as to which students would qualify for the summer learning opportunities. A detailed plan for how the schools will be staffed and operate will be presented to the board in April.

He concluded his remarks with the report that currently Weakley County Schools have no positive COVID-19 cases of either students or faculty and staff.

Other business included approval for hiring volunteer coaches Josh Grant for football at Dresden High, Colin Williams for boys’ basketball at Dresden Middle, and Zach Jones for boys’ soccer at Westview.

Another topic of discussion involved allowing athletic practice during the school day. Frazier explained this policy must be approved every year for it to continue.

In announcements, School Board Chairman Steve Vantrease extended sympathy to Matt Humphrey over the loss of his father.

The Weakley County School Board will meet Thursday, April 8, at 5 p.m. at the Weakley County Board of Education conference room in Dresden. The virtual link can be found on the calendar entry at www.weakleyschools.com.

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