Wamego school district not likely to drop controversial test policy

By Rose Schneider

Following four months of committee study of the district’s controversial grading policy, Wamego USD 320 board members are likely to impose some stricter standards for the policy’s execution. But the specifics of those changes are still being discussed, and may not be determined until the fall. The policy itself is not likely to be abandoned.

A committee composed of nine community members and six teachers and faculty members, finalized a 31-page summary of their investigation into the test taking policy, which allows students to retake a test up to five times to achieve a 70-percent score. 

USD 320 school board president Philip Wethington estimates the committee spent “hundreds of hours” reviewing the grading policy, speaking with teachers and other committee members.

“They didn’t come up with an answer because it isn’t that simple of an answer to give,” Wethington said. “They came up with areas they thought needed to be looked at further in the grading policy like who will monitor it and continual improvement of the policy itself.”

School board member, Mark Bettencourt acknowledged the policy’s impact on parents and community attitude.

“We’re trying to make everyone happy; both sides will be satisfied with the outcome of the policy if we can get together and compromise for what is the best interest of the children and school district,” Bettencourt said.

Bettencourt feels that by allowing students multiple retakes with “scrambled answers, that any student can almost work his or her way to an A by just taking enough tests.”

“You’re eventually going to come up with the answer,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you’ve learned anything.”

According to the president, the board has a number of items they’d like to see in the evaluation of the policy but “the issue the board has is that they have to go to the administration then to teachers to see if the data is even collectable.”

Some of the items that will be considered further and more in detail are how to validate whether the test strategies are effective, whether the subsequent tests are indeed more challenging than the first, what honor roll criteria consists of and how AP courses inflate grade point averages.

Wethington stressed his appreciation for the people who took their time to exanimate the process carefully.

“They had questions and wanted to learn more about it to further analyze and understand it,” Wethington said. “It was needed because of the conflict of opinion between board members; we needed the third party to draw conclusions.”

The board of education is expected to wait until its August retreat to discuss the topic further and see where it might go for the fall 2013 semester.

“I feel like we’re taking a better look at this than we were two years ago,” Wethington said. “In general the policy is here to stay.”

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