ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA
MINUTES, SEPTEMBER 9, 2002
The School Board of Escambia County, Florida, convened in Special Meeting at 9:00 a.m., in the Board Room, at the Dr. Vernon McDaniel (Administration) Building, 215 West Garden Street, Pensacola, Florida, with the following present:
Chairman: Dr. John DeWitt
Vice Chairman: Ms. Linda Finkelstein (entered at 9:05 a.m.)
Board Members: Mr. Gary L. Bergosh
Mrs. Cary Stidham
Dr. Elmer Jenkins (was not present)
School Board Attorney: Mr. Francisco M. Negron, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools: Mr. Jim Paul
I. CALL TO ORDER
Dr. DeWitt called the Special Meeting to order at 9:03 a.m.
II. ADOPTION OF AGENDA
Dr. DeWitt requested that Item V.1 Discussion and Motion to Allow Pensacola Beach Charter School Students Attending Suter Elementary Schools Gifted Program to Use District Transportation be deleted from the agenda, as that issue had been resolved.
On motion made by Mrs. Stidham and seconded by Mr. Bergosh, adoption of the agenda (as amended), was approved 3 to 0, with Ms. Finkelstein and Dr. Jenkins absent for vote.
Ms. Finkelstein entered the Special Meeting at 9:05 a.m.
1. Approval of Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2002
Motion by Mrs. Stidham, seconded by Ms. Finkelstein, approve was approved 4 to 0, with Dr. Jenkins absent for vote.
IV. CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION
1. The School District of Escambia County, Florida
Elementary Grading Policy
(NOTE: After discussion on this item, the Superintendent asked that it be deleted from the agenda.)
Dr. Deborah Malishan, Director of Elementary Education, explained that in an effort to provide consistency in measuring and reporting the reading achievement of elementary students, a Grading Committee was established to review current grading practices and make recommendations for improvements. She stated that the Grading Committees recommendations (as outlined in the Elementary Grading Policy) were based on the belief that the elementary reading grades should reflect students actual reading ability. She noted the Committee was aware that the recommendations for grading students functioning below grade level would lead to concerns surrounding student self-esteem (i.e., the emotional impact of students working diligently every day yet receiving a low grade on their report card). She stated that the Committee did consider the importance of student self-esteem, however, they believed that it was imperative to report academic progress to parents in a manner that would reflect a students actual reading ability. She explained that to most parents, the report card is the ultimate measurement of a students academic progress. In the past, some schools have attempted to use the below grade level indicator on report cards, however, those schools consistently reported that the indicator was insufficient as the sole method for alerting parents of substantial reading deficiencies.
There being no objection, the Board (except Dr. Jenkins, who was not present) agreed to suspend the rules, to allow discussion regarding this issue, prior to any motions.
(NOTE: The following comments refer to Item 3 of the proposed recommendations, which states: Students participating in SRA Reading Mastery Plus for remedial purposes cannot receive a reading grade higher than a C-. The letter grade given should reflect the degree of reading deficiency that exists; Students participating in SRA Corrective Reading (beginning in grade 3) cannot receive a reading grade higher than a D. The letter grade awarded should reflect the degree of reading deficiency that exists.) Mrs. Stidham stated that many principals and teachers believed that students in remedial reading classes should not receive a reading grade higher than a C (rather than the recommended C- or D). She noted that many students in remedial reading classes work diligently every day. She believed that giving those students a C- or D may send a message to the student that no matter how hard you work, you are going to make a D (or C) and then they may say why bother. Dr. Malishan responded by noting that while schools continually strive to ensure environments that nurture all aspects of children, they did have a responsibility to report academic progress to parents in a manner that reflects a students actual reading ability. She stated that the District would continue to look for opportunities to ensure students feelings of success, while also communicating student progress accurately to all parents. Ms. Finkelstein was also concerned for those students working diligently every day and being told they are doing great and then receiving a low grade (such as a D) on their report card. She suggested a compromise plan that would include two grades; one that would reflect actual ability and one that would reflect progress and effort. She believed that it was important for students to see that they are making progress, yet also important for parents to understand that their student is still not reading on grade level. Dr. Malishan stated that the Committee had discussed that option, but noted that the consensus was that assigning two grades would send mixed messages. She noted that what parents and students see is the letter grade on the report card and nothing else, not even the below grade level indicator. Mr. Bergosh believed that the District had a responsibility to report students academic progress honestly and believed that it would be a disservice by being less than 100% honest with them. He believed that it was imperative to report academic progress to parents in a manner that would reflect a students actual reading ability and that doing so, would be helpful in addressing the motivational needs of struggling students. Dr. DeWitt stated that he shared the same concerns expressed by Mrs. Stidham and Ms. Finkelstein. He stated that he had discussed this issue with several teachers, and noted that they were opposed to the recommendations. He believed that for those students working diligently every day to receive a low grade on their report card, would send a terrible message. He did not believe that the District should issue a directive to teachers on how to evaluate the performance of students. He noted that teachers are highly trained professional that should have the discretion to give a student the grade they believe the student deserves. Dr. Malishan was concerned with the idea of leaving the grading at the discretion of teachers. She noted that in the past there had been students who were retained with report cards that indicated passing grades, report cards where the grades were not commensurate with retention.
The Board recognized Ms. Marcia Nowlin, principal of McArthur Elementary School, who noted that assigning grades to help students self-esteem could prohibit students from getting desperately needed assistance (i.e., special education programs). She believed that assigning grades that reflect the students actual ability would open up avenues for success for those students that would not be available if documentation shows that they are successful in the program that they are in. Mr. Paul Fetsko, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, believed that there was a need in the District for consistency across the board, in measuring and reporting the reading achievement of elementary students. Whether the recommended Elementary Grading Policy was the best method, he was not sure. However, he believed that even if changes are made in the future, something needs to be in place now to get information out to parents. He believed that it was imperative to assign grades that reflect a students actual reading ability, noting that by doing so those students would be able to receive special assistance to help them improve.
The Board recognized the following speakers:
Dr. Rebecca McBride, principal of Jim Allen Elementary School, who responded to comments made regarding the effect of lower grades on a students self-esteem. She noted that the report card grade is a one-day grade that is simply a communication issue for parents, and believed that a students self-esteem comes from how they are treated everyday by their parents and teachers.
Mr. Bob Husbands, Executive Director, Escambia NEA UniServe, who noted that it is week six (of the school year) and not the time to adopt a grading policy of this magnitude. He disagreed with the issue of consistency because, he believed that all students do not have the same problems, exert the same effort or make the same progress and achievement. He noted that a disruptive student who made no effort or progress, receiving the same grade as a student who worked diligently, was consistency but not education. He suggested that students in remedial reading classes not receive a report card grade, but rather a status report instead. He also noted that while the Union understood the need for interim reports, they were not supportive of moving from a nine-week grading period to a four-and-a-half grading period (as recommended in the Elementary Grading Policy).
Dr. Kathryn Evans, principal of Montclair Elementary School, who noted that the report card was communication issue to parents. She explained that Montclair Elementary had issued reading grades that reflected students actual ability, yet had all kinds of strategies to help the student understand that the grade represents an opportunity to develop a goal for improvement.
Mrs. Madonna Jackson-Williams, EEA President, who responded to earlier comments made regarding the effect of lower grades on a students self-esteem.
Ms. Laura Colo, Reading Specialist, responded to comments from several speakers by explaining that the recommended Elementary Grading Policy was an effort to have varying levels of remediation to meet the needs of students, and also to report to parents in a way that is clear how the student is functioning and moving. She noted that if a student does receive a D or F, they certainly have the opportunity to move up (improve).
The Superintendent stated that he was concerned with comments that alluded to inflating grades while using students self-esteem as justification for doing so. In response to all concerns expressed, he stated that he would delete Item IV.1 (The School District of Escambia County, Florida Elementary Grading Policy) and Item IV.2 (The School District of Escambia County, Florida Elementary and Secondary Assessment and Remediation Plan) from the agenda and would revisit those issues at the October Regular Meeting.
2. The School District of Escambia County, Florida
Elementary and Secondary Assessment and Remediation Plan
(NOTE: As requested by the Superintendent, this item was deleted from the agenda.)
V. ITEMS FROM THE BOARD
1. Discussion and Motion to Allow Pensacola Beach
Charter School Students Attending Suter Elementary Schools
Gifted Program to Use District Transportation John
Prior to adjournment, the Board recognized Ms. Betty Cole, who expressed her concerns with the health of her grandson and other students that attend Pine Forest High School. She cited several areas of concern such as mold around windows, mold on carpets and leaky air conditioners and requested that steps be taken to remedy the problem. Dr. DeWitt suggested that Ms. Cole consult with Mr. Ted Kirchharr, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, regarding her concerns. There being no further business, the Special Meeting adjourned at 11:40 a.m.