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833 looks at weighting grades

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education Woodbury, 55125
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

Starting this fall,District 833's high schools will give students who take advanced classes grades 20 percent higher than they could earn in traditional classes if a proposal is approved by the school board Aug. 21.

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The board heard the proposal at its July 17 workshop meeting from Randy Zipf, assistant superintendent for secondary instruction, Efe Agbamu, Park High School principal, Linda Plante, Woodbury High School principal and Aaron Harper, East Ridge High School principal.

Currently, students choose not to take Advanced Placement courses because they can get a high grade in a traditional class that will boost their class rankings. If they opt for a harder class, even though they could be learning more, if they get a B, it hurts their ranking.

"We want to reward students who take on more rigorous class work," Zipf said. "We also want to increase the number of students taking advanced classes."

The proposal, already in place in a number of school districts in the metropolitan area including Anoka-Hennepin, Bloomington and Lakeville, has been discussed and approved by meetings with district parents, students, site councils and curriculum and instruction committees, Zipf said.

Advanced Placement, College in the Schools and International Baccalaureate classes (planned to start in 2010 at Park) would qualify for weighted grades under the proposal.

More classes can qualify in the future but the current list of advanced placement classes includes studio art, literature and composition, language composition, calculus, statistics, biology, chemistry, physics, world history, government and politics and economics.

College in the Schools classes, offered only at Woodbury High School, include psychology, German and Spanish for college credit.

Plante said students who take advanced placement classes do better in other classes and in college.

"The research is clear on that," she told the board. "Parents say their kids lost out on scholarships because we do not have weighted grades," she said.

"There is a philosophy that only top kids take the classes, but I don't agree," said Harper. "All kids should have a chance."

High-achieving students have parents who push them, according to Agbamu. Mid-level students have incentive to take more rigorous classes if there is a weighted system.

It's also being recommended that "A-plus" grades no longer be given.

Students who receive the grade now earn 4.33 honor points for a credit.

There is a wide variation among teachers in how the additional plus grade can be earned, Zipf said.

"It hasn't been standardized," Plante said. "For six years, I've been wondering how there could be something beyond 'superior.'"

"Eliminating 'A-pluses' doesn't do away with inconsistencies," said Leslee Boyd, board member.

Although it was discussed at a parent meeting in March, applying weighted grades to classes current high school students have already taken is not being recommended.

Board member Jim Gelbmann said he supports weighted grades but thinks not giving credit retroactively would punish students who took them before their senior year.

Plante said implementing weighted grades this fall can be done because there are normally many class changes when school starts. Students will be notified so they can change their registrations.

"It will involve a lot of work, but our counselors know that," Plante said.

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