School grading system questioned by parents, others
Mary E. Hinds News-Herald
The new grading system in Loudon County Schools came under fire at Thursday night's county school board workshop when a parent spoke up to complain about it.

Under the new system students receive a M, P or N instead of the traditional A, B C grades. The news system rewards a student with an "M" if they have mastered a skill, a "P" if they are making progress and an "N" if a student has not mastered a skill. The new system is broken down into individual components.

Peter DeLorme told the board he and his family had moved to Loudon County from Farragut and was disappointed with the new grading system, which he said he feels lumps the children who are excelling with the ones who are having problems and does not recognize or reward excellence. DeLorme also said report cards under the new system are unclear when a student who makes a 72 is given the same letter grade as a student who make a 95.

"It just doesn't work," he told the board. He also said the new system is not in-sync with colleges or private schools. "This is an evaluation tool not a grading system," DeLorme said.

Board member Steve Harrelson asked which neighboring systems are using the new system. Several people spoke up naming the Oak Ridge School, the Maryville City Schools and schools in Metro Nashville as using the new system. Some suggested it might be better to use both methods with students receiving scores under the new system as well as A, B and C's to make things clearer for students and parents. Board member Larry Proaps reminded the board the new system was only put in place a few months ago.

"It's a work in progress," Proaps said adding glitches are to be expected and can be worked out but he decried the idea of changing the grading system "in mid-stream."  DeLorme said his two children are not motivated under the new system. "Report cards come out and they don't care," he said adding under the traditional system his children would work for the rewards that came with getting an "A." He also stressed it was impossible to fail under the new system. "Failing is part of achieving," he added.

Board member Dr. Gary Ubbens who is a professor at UT, said that while the A, B, C system has been in place for generations it "is not as good as it is purported to be." He said he could write an exam and make it as difficult or easy as he wanted and students taking such an exam might pass or fail but it wouldn't be a true measure of whether or not they have actually mastered the material. The new system measures success against a set standard which "makes more sense."

Board member Van Shaver told the board "every few days" he was hearing from people, including many teachers, who are not happy about the new system and he was on board with using both systems. He said he would put it on the agenda for next week's voting meeting for an up or down vote. 

After more discussion, Director of Loudon County Schools Wayne Honeycutt said he would explore the possibility of students receiving two sets of marks - the new and old grading systems - to clear up any confusion.