At their July meeting, members of the Thomaston-Upson Board of Education expressed concern about keeping a “level playing field” with surrounding school systems in terms of the grades being given to students taking Honors courses, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and Dual Enrollment courses. The board members stated that they had learned that surrounding school systems “weight” their grades, meaning they give additional grade points to grades earned in the Honors, AP and Dual Enrollment courses.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Larry Derico researched the issue and reported back to the Board of Education at their July work session. It was found other school systems were weighting their grades for the upper level classes, and after talking with administrators at Upson-Lee High School, a new grading policy was added to the high school student handbook and approved by the Board of Education.
The Thomaston Times sat down with Dr. Derico to talk about what the new policy means for students in Upson County.
“Our school board had a concern that other school systems were weighting their grades, and we did not have a policy where we were weighting our grades,” Dr. Derico explained. “At some point we did have a policy in place, but not currently. They wanted us to investigate what was going on in other local school systems and basically see if we needed to make adjustments in ours.
“Dr. Shook contacted our local Griffin RESA (Regional Education Service Agency) and they did a school board poll to see what their policies were in weighting with respect to AP classes and Dual Enrollment classes and Honors classes. All of the other school systems in Griffin RESA have some type of weighting policy. Some don’t include Honors Classes, but they all weight AP and Dual Enrollment classes.
“After we got the results back, Dr. Gatlin sat down with the high school staff and had a conversation with them with respect to the policies that were in place, and developed a grading policy that the board approved,” Dr. Derico said. “That is 5 additional points for Honors classes, 8 additional points for AP classes, and 10 additional points for Dual Enrollment classes. The weighted scale for these advanced courses will be in the high school handbook. All the other grading remains the same. We just added the weights to keep us consistent with what is going on in the other school districts.”
“We want to make sure the playing field is level, to make sure our students have the same advantages as far as what is reflected on transcripts. We don’t want to put our kids at an unfair disadvantage.”
Dr. Derico noted that the high school staff is also increasing the “rigor” or academic standards of the upper level courses, to make sure the students taking the classes are capable of reaching the standards set in the courses.
“The difference between Honors and AP is with the AP course they can actually earn college credit, because it gives them the option to take the AP exam. Honors courses are more advanced courses, but the rigor isn’t as high as in AP courses,” said Dr. Derico.
“We want to increase the number of students who take the AP exam and score a 3 or better, so that they receive college credit for the course. We want to make sure that the students who are in those classes are in those classes because they can handle the rigor. We don’t want to decrease the rigor so we can keep more students in there. It is called an Advanced Placement course for a reason.”
Dr. Derico added that they also hope to see more students taking dual enrollment courses in the future, but said it depends on how ambitious the students are, because of the rigors of the courses.
“Our push to get more students involved in dual enrollment is now more than ever. The fact that these dual-enrolled high school students are getting their college courses at basically no charge is really a good selling point right now for dual enrollment. We’ve always informed students of dual enrollment opportunities, but I think it is starting to catch on with the parents now. They are finally starting to understand the value of getting a head start on college while they’re still in high school,” he said. “But, dual enrollment is just catching on now all across the country.”
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.