The board applied for a waiver from the state Department of Public Instruction Tuesday night that would also allow elementary and middle schools to move from a six-week grading period to a nine-week one.
Richmond County Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Robert Beck presented a proposal to apply for the waiver to allow grades nine through 12 begin on Aug. 4, enabling county high schools to offer first semester end-of-course tests before Christmas break instead of after a two-week layoff for students.
“The second benefit of this is if we have any inclement weather, they will already have the end-of-course tests and final exams done,” Beck said.
Richmond County Schools is asking for feedback on the proposal on its website, www.richmond.k12.nc.us.
In January, exam schedules were altered by snow days.
RCS Superintendent Dr. George Norris said he’d discussed the idea with school personnel and parents and had received mixed reactions on the idea.
“We are just asking you to apply for the waiver so we can consider doing this, and if it is granted we would make that decision down the road,” Norris told board members. “... We can make the changes in this if we think this is a good idea, but I’m interested in seeing what the public has to say about it.”
Under the plan, all holidays would stay the same.
State law requires school districts to hold at least 180 days and 1,000 instructional hours and cover at least nine months.
It also requires the first day for students not be before Aug. 25 and the closing date not fall after June 10, but there is an exemption process school districts can apply for.
“The State Board of Education may grant a waiver to a school or to a defined program to the extent that the State Board of Education finds that a) the educational purpose is reasonable, b) the accommodation is necessary to accomplish the educational purpose, or c) the request is not an attempt to circumvent the opening and closing dates, House Bill 1464, which took effect in 2005, reads.
The website, www.testtakingtips.com, suggests students review material while it’s still fresh in their minds before taking a test.
The obvious concern of board members is that the two-week lay-off allows students to lose some of the skills they’ve learned throughout the semester, and likely hurt their performance on exam day.
“That’s one of the main concerns for us,” Richmond Senior Test Coordinator Don Smeigh said. “We’re not sure how much the kids lose during the Christmas break, and of course this year we had the snow days interfere with our test schedule, so that plays a part as well.”
He said there is another benefit in streamlining things for an increasing number of “dual enrollment” students who earn community college credits while still in high school.
“This would put us on the same schedule as the community college, and it would certainly make it easier for them,” Smeigh said.
There could be changes in the works for lower grades, as well, depending on the outcome of a principal’s meeting later this month.
The district’s elementary and middle school principals will meet to discuss moving their grading periods to a nine-week, quarterly format, and abandon the six-week grading period.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 15, or by e-mail at email@example.com.