JMA board maps out eighth grade credit strategy


May 26, 2009
ALTON — Prospect Mountain High School's JMA board was presented by members of its Policy subcommittee last week with a possible strategy for addressing the complex issue of credit for eighth grade course work.

Chairman and subcommittee member Keith Couch announced during the board's May 19 meeting that the Policy committee had recently met in response to the cases of several students who never received credit they were promised for successfully completing Algebra I in eighth grade, and spent five hours mapping out a way to approach the situation.

"We've got a path," he said, adding that he was seeking the full board's support for drafting the policy and submitting to legal counsel for review.

When discussing the matter, he explained, the Policy committee focused on two key issues: the students already in the "pipeline" who have not received credit, and the question of whether credit for middle school course work should be awarded in the form of an actual number, or as permission for incoming freshmen to take the next successive course.

Available data for the awarding of eighth grade credit, he said, showed that in the past, some students were "very un-uniformly" granted what he called "credit the number," while others were denied credit.

Although policies were found at both local elementary schools outlining the procedure for awarding credit for eighth grade coursework, he added, there was no language in either policy authorizing officials at the high school to grant numerical credit.

The Policy committee's recommendation, Couch explained, was that in the future, incoming freshmen receive credit for eighth grade coursework in the form of permission to move to the next level.

For those students "in the pipeline," the committee recommended that since numerical credit had already been given to some of their peers, it would only be fair to do the same for them.

Asked by board member Terri Noyes whether current eighth graders were under the impression that they would receive numerical credit, Couch replied that no promises had been made.

Asking whether students who currently take a high-school level Algebra I course in eighth grade are given the same assessment tests as their counterparts at the high school, board member Jeff St. Cyr said that from his perspective, they should receive numerical credit on their transcripts if that is the case.

Couch explained that by awarding "credit the number" for eighth grade coursework, the district might be putting itself at risk with regard to state competency requirements for teachers.

Noting that the recommended policy would have no effect on a student's cumulative grade point average, Couch said it might also foster a "parallelism" between the high school and the two local elementary schools that would promote "continual learning."

Throwing out the hypothetical example of a student with Spanish-speaking parents who completed both Spanish I and Spanish II in middle school, board member Kathy Preston asked whether administrators would be required, under the recommended policy, to award credit for those courses in addition to whatever the student had done at the high school.

"You can make this so complicated that nothing ever happens," she said. "You can't award every credit going back. You have to draw the line."

Couch agreed, explaining that the policy would apply only to coursework completed during a student's eighth grade year.

If the issue had been pursued to its fullest extent, he added, the administration could have ended up re-evaluating the GPAs of past graduates and re-writing diplomas to reflect their adjusted academic status.

Board member Sandy Wyatt said the recommended policy seemed to her to be the fairest way of addressing the issue.

Intent of dugout donation clarified

Boosters Club President Kathy Frangione appeared before the board last week to clarify the intent of a $1,000 donation the organization recently made toward the construction of dugouts (which the board approved last month).

It was the club's intention, she explained, that the money be evenly split between the baseball and softball fields.

"They're both very important in our minds," she said, referencing Title IX.

The Boosters would like the board to consider using the money to build four dugouts (two for each field), she said.

If not, she added, then only $500 will be made available.

Couch said during the bi-weekly report of the Building and Grounds subcommittee that by rushing to approve projects such as the dugouts without putting them through the normal budgeting process, he felt the board ran the risk of alienating both special interest groups like the Boosters and the high school budget committee.

"I don't think many schools in the area play without dugouts," board member Maureen Smith commented.

Couch replied that although he understood the need for dugouts, he had seen the board toss the idea around for the past two years, and felt that it should have been presented in the form of a warrant article.

Next meeting

The board's next meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, June 2, at 6:30 p.m. in the high school media center.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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