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Port Orange Observer Friday, Jun. 28, 2019 5 months ago

Volusia County School Board debates when and how to implement new end-of-course exam formula

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The Volusia County School Board discussed changing the formula for calculating end-of-course exams and grades, per state mandate, at the meeting on June 25.
by: Tanya Russo Staff Writer

Now that Florida has a new formula by which school districts calculate the weight of end-of-course grades, Volusia County is left with figuring out how to best implement the changes. 

A presentation about the situation was made by Interim Chief Academic Officer Rachael Hazel at the School Board meeting held on June 25. In 2011, Florida required all students enrolled in Algebra I, Algebra I Honors, Algebra Ib, Geometry, U.S. History, Biology and seventh grade civics to take an end-of-course exam that constituted 30% of a students’ grade. At that time, Florida did not provide any instructions for districts on how to calculate grades.

As a result, districts came up with their own formulas, which is what the Volusia County School District did.

Hazel gave the example of a student who had a D and three F grades for the quarters of the school year. The average of those grades would become an F for that year, as the student’s grade would be rounded down.

With the new formula the state has suggested, and that the Board adopted, that same student would have a grade of .5, calculated by the semester. The grade would be rounded up, and the student would have a D for the year.

The task ahead for the school board is to determine when and how the new formula for EOC grades will be implemented.

According to attorney Stacey Manning, if the District made changes using the new formula retroactively, there would be negative consequences for students that could become unconstitutional. Legally, however, there would be no issue with implementing the formula with incoming seventh graders and phase in the new formula over five to seven years to get everyone on the same calculations.

Interim Superintendent Tim Egnor didn't want to phase in the formula. He wanted to implement the new one now.

“There is no reason, to my knowledge why we could not start this school year, applying this new standard to every student in the system," Egnor said. "We don’t need to phase it in.”

Board Attorney Ted Doran was concerned about having students from many different levels taking the same class while going through the system with two different formulas. Some students, like the example given by Hazel, would be negatively impacted as a result of the change.

Board member Ruben Colon wanted the School District to gather information from other districts to know how they are handling the implementations. Colon also said he researched various institutions of higher learning to find out how they handle transcripts from different school districts.

Egnor said there is a huge range of how other districts have handled the previous formulas, and therefore, there is not a solid comparison of what other districts have done.

Colon suggested a workshop to further discuss the issue. Board members Ida Wright and Jamie Haynes concurred that additional discussion and information needs to be gained before voting.

Egnor said that the administration can create multiple examples of scenarios for the Board to view and discuss the pros and cons of each to pick the most appropriate and fair impact on students. Egnor also talked about the need for Manning and Doran to address any legal issues that could result from the various options of implementation.

“I am very proud of a Volusia diploma," Board member Linda Cuthbert said. "We have to make sure that our diplomas reflect the proficiencies of what a student has earned."

Chairman Carl Persis said that the only state recommendation was to go with calculating grades by semester.

The discussion was tabled with a plan for a workshop on the morning on July 22 to further discuss how and when the formula change for the 2019-2020 school year would happen and to whom it would be applied.

The Board is slated to take action on the new formula at the regular July 22 meeting later that day.

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