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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Pinellas schools consider new grading approach

CLEARWATER - A Pinellas County School Board vote Tuesday night could change the way students are graded next year.

The board will consider a student progression plan that will include a new scoring rubric for honors students, longer grading periods, and fewer report cards.

Elementary, middle and high schools will change from six grading periods to four next school year. In high schools, that means final semester grades will be based on two grading periods and a final exam instead of three grading periods and a final exam.

Seventy-five percent of a final semester grade will come from an average of the student's quarter grades, and 25 percent will come from the final exam grade. In classes without final exams, final grades will be calculated by averaging the unweighted grades from the two quarters. The change also means students could take final exams before winter break.

High school freshmen enrolling in the 2014-15 school year also may be the first under a new formula that makes honors courses worth less on their grade point averages than Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. An "A" grade in an AP, IB or dual enrollment class is worth 5 points, but in honors classes it will be worth 4.5 points. An "A" grade in a regular course will continue to be worth 4 points and in a basic course it would be worth 3 points.

The new weighting system could effect everything from a student's class rank to college scholarships and acceptance. Because the change is starting with incoming freshmen, no current students' grade point averages will be affected.

"When we change the weight of an honors course, it won't impact the student's class ranking, but rather their qualifications for certain academic achievements," Superintendent Michael Grego said. Those achievement could be anything from college scholarships to academic letters and awards.

Other changes outlined in the voluminous "student progression plan" align the school district with new legislation and state requirements for the gradual implementation of the Common Core State Standards, now called the Florida Standards. The new education standards were adopted by the state in 2010, and will be implemented in every Florida classroom next school year.

The changes require students entering seventh grade to enroll in a year-long civics course, with their end-of-course exam counting for 30 percent of the final grade. Middle school students taking Algebra 1 must pass an end-of-course exam to earn high school credit, though there will be multiple opportunities to retake the exam or the entire course through high school.

The new progression plan also includes requirements for implementing technology into students' career counseling courses, changes to the way students who are not meeting grade level expectations in elementary and middle schools are reported, and updates special diploma requirements.

The school board meets at 5:30 p.m. at the School Administration Building, 301 Fourth St. S.W., Largo.

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