Brooke eyes weighted grade system

WELLSBURG – The Brooke County Board of Education on Tuesday discussed whether students in a program at West Liberty University should receive weighted grades.

The board heard last month from Kristin Wagstaff, whose daughter is among five Brooke High School students selected to participate in the Advanced Academy of West Virginia program at WLU.

Through the program, high school students complete college courses in lieu of high school courses and receive credit at both schools.

Wagstaff asked the board to consider weighting the courses, as it does for advanced placement courses taught at the high school, so the students may receive higher grade-point averages for their efforts.

Awarding a weighted grade involves adding points to a grade so that students taking more difficult courses have the opportunity to receive a higher grade-point average than those in less difficult ones.

Valerie Smith, the school district’s director of student services, told the board other students at the high school are enrolled in college courses through Bethany College, West Virginia Northern Community College and West Virginia University, but don’t receive weighted grades.

She said students enrolled in honors courses also don’t receive weighted grades, though students in advanced placement courses do, as required by the state.

Board member Chad Haught asked why students in the honors courses don’t receive weighted grades.

“If it is more rigorous, why shouldn’t they get extra credit for doing it?” Haught asked. He questioned whether students have an incentive to take the honors courses.

To complete the honors program, students must complete at least 12 honors courses, including two advanced placement or college courses, earn a 3.55 cumulative grade-point average and complete a project their senior year involving community service.

Smith said students are selected for the program based on previous grades, their score on a pre-college entrance exam and a teacher’s recommendation, and there is no limit to the number who may participate. She said honors students are recognized at commencement and their status and coursework is noted by colleges to which they have applied.

Board President James Piccirillo said the students also are rewarded by taking the courses, which should prepare them well for college. He said college officials consider college entrance exam scores, the type of courses a student has completed and, in some cases, an essay required with applications above a student’s GPA.

Smith said weighted grades would change the GPAs of students in honors and college courses but not necessarily their class ranking when compared to advanced placement students.

But school officials acknowledged when weighted grades were applied to advanced placement courses, there was a drop in the number of students who earned the status of valedictorian and salutatorian.

Smith said if the board was to give added value to the honors and college courses, it should do it with a designated incoming freshman class. She noted that was done when the AP courses were weighted, so students entering high school could plan their coursework accordingly.

While the board didn’t take a formal vote and wasn’t expected to at the special work meeting, Piccirillo said he doesn’t foresee it implementing new weighted grades at this time.

“Right now we’re not going to introduce weighted grades. It’s something we may consider in the future,” he said.

In other business, Haught asked about the school board’s policy for enrolling children in pre-school.

In addition to pre-school classes for children with and without special needs at the high school, the school district has partnered with daycare centers in Follansbee and Weirton and a Head Start center at Beech Bottom Primary School to provide sites there.

Rhonda Combs, the school district’s director of curriculum for grades K-5, said Brooke High School often is the most popular site and often becomes filled quickly.

But she added some parents choose the daycare centers because their children have been going there and the staff is familiar with them.

Combs noted geographic and other issues also are factors, and she and a team with the school board office do their best to meet each family’s needs.

“We try to give people their first choice,” she said, adding, “I feel we do it as fairly as possible.”

She said each site is limited to 20 children, with the exception of the special needs classsrooms, which must be smaller, and have a certified teacher and facilities that meets criteria set by the state.

School board members noted there has been talk of creating additional pre-school space in existing schools or the proposed new middle school.

But Combs noted state policy calls for at least 50 percent of a school district’s pre-school sites to be private collaborators, perhaps in an effort not to harm daycare centers.

She noted the state Department of Education is pushing for all school districts to offer pre-kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds in the next two years and providing transportation to the sites will be a component of that.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)