Proposed Changes to the High School Program of Studies At a meeting 11/13 at WAHS, Don Vale presented proposals for changes to the High School â€œProgram of Studiesâ€ (POS) to a large group of parents and high school students. The program of studies sets forth the core offerings for students and states the grading and testing procedures. The POS is reviewed and approved by the Board every year.
Under the steering committeeâ€™s proposal, changes would be made in the following areas: grade point average (GPA); placement levels in core courses; grading scale and exams. See handout (PDF).
While all of the proposals generated some controversy, the most troubling to the attendees at WAHS was the change from the current system of weighting GPA [a greater value is given to more difficult levels of courses] to the proposed non-weighting GPA [an A in a standard course and an A in an AP course are given the same point value] with no class ranking.
If approved, these changes would affect those students entering WAHS (and all division High Schools) in Fall 2007â€”that is, this yearâ€™s 8th grade students. I was impressed by the dozens of high school students in attendance, many of whom spoke with passion and eloquence against the proposal. They sited the requirements of college applications (which often seek class rank) as well as their experience that having the additional value on difficult course material was an incentive to challenge themselves toward more vigorous course work. Parents were concerned that the reason behind making the changes has not been clearly articulated. In response to a question, Mr. Vale conceded that teachers at WAHS are against the proposal. Again and again, the success of students at WAHS and its reputation among colleges and universities in the Commonwealth was reiterated. The consensus at WAHS was: â€œif itâ€™s not broke, donâ€™t fix it.â€
Iâ€™m concerned that parents of middle school kids, who will be the first to experience these changes, have not been made aware of the issues. The Steering Committeeâ€™s website includes (as of today) 15 pdf downloads and a monitored discussion board. Also see the Daily Progress article (11/11/06).
An additional information session will be held 7:30 p.m. Thursday 11/16 at Monticello High. A date for a session Albemarle High has not yet been scheduled (per DP article). The recommendations will be submitted to Superintendent Pam Moran for review. If the Superintendent endorses the proposal, the School Board will vote on this matter in December. Once again, it is incumbent on parents to know the issues and speak out for their child(ren).
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Update 11/18/2006: This is a relevant Washington Post article with one of our own educators from Western Albemarle High School, pointed out by an astute reader.