Parent, teacher concerned about NHCS grading policy

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — A teacher is speaking out about a policy meant to help students, that she thinks may actually hold them back.

According to this teacher and several parents, this quarter, New Hanover County Schools is not allowing individual assignment grades to fall below a 50.

This has led to major grade inflations, especially for those who aren’t turning in work.

The New Hanover County School teacher, who wished to remain anonymous says she’d calculated quarter grades with the new grading policy and without.

“76 to a 78… maybe they missed a couple of assignments,” she said, pointing to specific grades in her gradebook. “But, here a 27 to a 62. “

She says the policy meant to motivate kids is doing the opposite, inflating grades instead of pushing kids to their full potential.

“How much of an inflation are we talking about,” I (the reporter) asked.

“Easily two letter grades,” she responded.

This makes it easier to pass, even without putting in the work.

“It’s the students that aren’t participating that aren’t learning,” said the educator. “And that’s what we’re kind of addressing here. If they’re not participating, what do you do? Give it to them? Then you make a bigger problem later.”

By bigger problem, she’s referring to future consequences in future school years. Students could find themselves unprepared for coursework built on the foundation of what they were supposed to know from the year prior.

On paper, the policy she spoke of seems to be doing its job.

According to New Hanover County Schools, last semester, 72 percent of Williston Middle School students failed at least one class. Only 35 percent failed the year before.

This quarter, that number is down to 65 percent.

But some parents, like Josie Barnhart, worry that decrease is due to kids passing without understanding the year’s subject matter.

“When you get a group of kids that you’re passing on at a lower bar set for standards,” Barnhart explained, “you’re now making the job of the next school teacher so much harder.”

According to that anonymous teacher, this could potentially set some students up to fail later on.

“Students that are working to support their family that is struggling,” she said. “And those are real, real problems for students. And they’re not solved by giving 50s for work that hasn’t been done.  Because that makes the problem bigger.”

Both Barnhart and the teacher believe the policy was started with good intentions, but Barnhart hopes New Hanover County Schools will consider a new direction.

“I would love to see a new opportunity for kids to recapture that knowledge maybe in the form of corrections,” Barnhart suggested. “Test corrections or redoing reports. Maybe not giving them a 100, but allowing them the chance to better learn the material, to work hard, and to pull up their grades.”

We reached out to New Hanover County Schools about this policy.

Stephanie Adams, the New Hanover County Board of Education’s chairperson released a statement, saying in part:

“The Board of Education sets the grading policy for the school district and believes it is a fair scale for evaluating student progress. The 50-100 range provides students with an opportunity to learn and recover from academic challenges.”

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