Durham welcomes new superintendent, policy?

DURHAM One of the first tasks for Dr. Eric Becoats is to put in place a new grading policy that the school board passed just before he got his position.

The controversial new grading policy could give students scores higher than zero, even if they did not do any work and never show up for class.

It allows high school students to avoid some final exams if their class grade is as low as "C".

Attendance and classroom behavior will also not be counted toward grades. And students in the first three quarters of a class cannot get a grade below 60, even if they do absolutely no work.

The goal of the policy is to raise attendance rates by not allowing marginal students to dig themselves into a huge hole with grades of zero.

"It becomes the responsibility of adults to make sure we are doing everything we can to support students," Becoats said. "What the community and district has put together is something we will have to look at and see how it's implemented. And then come back and review it if we need to or if there is still some concerns about it."

However, some critics blast Durham's new grading policy.

"If the goal is to raise high expectations for students that certainly doesn't do so," said Terry Stoops with the John Locke Foundation. "This invites students to be disruptive. They know they're going to get a 60 no matter what happens in the classroom."

And even the new superintendent himself sounds cautious about where the grading policy is going.

"I think it is something we will have to review, definitely," Becoats said.

But Durham is not the only school system considering changes. The public schools in Wake County have also talked about changing grading policies.

But School Board Chair Ron Margiotta says he hopes it never happens. He thinks grades that do not factor in attendance, basic behavior, and class participation, will simply lead to discipline problems in class.

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