Board hears several change proposals

Published 5:14 pm Friday, February 8, 2008

The Pearl River County School Board heard proposals from Principal Loren Harris for several changes at Pearl River Central High School at the board meeting Thursday night.

One such proposed change was to reorder some of the classes in a nontraditional way, which Harris said would give weaker students some remediation classes before their course tests.

For example, Harris proposed, a student could start Ninth Grade by taking Compensatory Reading and English I, and then move to Compensatory Writing and English III before taking English II. Harris said this would give students an extra semester of studying and would allow them to take their course tests their junior year.

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“If they take their course test their junior year and fail, they will still have four more chances to take it during their senior year,” Harris said.

Harris said the decision to reorder classes for students would be based on Mississippi Curriculum Test scores in the seventh and eighth grades, and would not affect honor students.

“We’re putting the weaker students in the position to be successful. We tried it with history classes last year, by putting Civics and Government before American History and World History, and had great success,” Harris said.

Harris also proposed that the school board look at moving to a 10-point grading scale from the seven point scale the school now uses.

One advantage to the 10-point scale, Harris said, is that it aligns with the college grading scale and prepares students for the grading system at colleges. Another reason for switching grading scales would be to give students a more fair advantage at scholarships.

“When you look at a student from Pearl River Central who has a 92 average, it translates to a 3.0 on our current grading scale. The same score from places like Alabama or Texas would translate to a 4.0 because they are on the ten point scale. Our student would get approximately $13,000 in scholarship money, while a student from those other schools would get more than that… We need to go to a 10-point scale to put our kids on the same playing field as other schools,” Harris said.

Board member Sherwin Taylor asked if the move toward a 10-point scale is a statewide movement.

School Superintendent Dennis Penton said it is not a state mandated movement at the time, because each school district sets its own grading scale, but he thinks more schools are starting to be in favor of the 10-point scale because students on other scales are at a disadvantage to ones on a 10-point scale.

Board member Michelle Boyd asked, “What’s wrong with an eight-point scale? If my child gets a 91, that’s a B. She hasn’t earned an A.”

“It comes down to the fact that we want our students to have the same opportunities, and the 10-point scale seems to be the predominant scale. Seventy-two percent of high schools across the nation are using some form of the 10-point scale. Colleges look at a student’s G.P.A., and if we can help, we need to,” Harris said.

Another change Harris proposed is reducing the number of Carnegie Units required to graduate from 29 to 26. Harris said the state requirement has been 21, and is changing to 24 next year.

“We had seven students that did not have enough credits last year. All seven were only short PRC electives. Of the seven, only four came back to finish their credits… Let’s get off 29 units. Those seven become graduates, our dropout rate goes down and our graduation rate goes up. If we go with 26 units, we’re still requiring more than the state,” Harris said.

The major change proposed by Harris is to move from a four by four block schedule to a four by two modified block schedule.

“In a four by two modified block, we would have some classes that meet all year long for 45 minutes, while other classes would only last 95 minutes and be for one semester,” Harris said.

Harris said the modified schedule could benefit students who are behind by providing more instruction time and allowing them to take additional classes for remediation.

“For example, if a student is behind in English, the first semester he can take Compensatory Reading for 95 minutes each day, then a 95-minute class of English I the second semester. If a student is on track, he can take a 45-minute English I class all year long,” Harris said.

Another advantage would be the ability to scatter extra-curricular activities so that students can be involved in more than one, Harris said.

“Right now, Drama and Show Choir are taught at the same time. This modified schedule gives us a little bit more freedom to schedule around those classes so students have more options,” Harris said.

Harris said the only action he needed from the board at this time was a motion allowing him to set up a master schedule for a four by two modified block so he could bring it back to the board for their approval.

“It takes a long time to build a master schedule, so we can’t put it off past next month. I can put together a draft copy and bring it back next month for you to review and decide on then. I can also bring formal proposals for other changes that have been mentioned tonight as well,” Harris said.

The board voted for Harris to prepare the master schedule for the four by two modified block for review at the next meeting.

In other business, the board:

— Approved financial matters.

— Approved personnel matters.

— Approved Enhancing Education Through Technology Grant application.

— Approved E-Rate application for expenditures for the 2008-2009 school year.

— Approved 2008-2009 Pearl River Central Middle School Cheerleader Constitution.

— Approved amending the Limited English Proficiency Instruction, No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 policy.

— Approved donation of $40.00 to Upper Elementary.

— Approved request for two students to be released from the district for the 2007-2008 school year.