Classes’ passing grades at Boothbay Region High School next year are being raised to 70%. Student Will Perkins spotlighted the issue in a Champions of Change article in July in a bid to raise the bar for education standards.
The Community School District School Committee asked Principal Dan Welch to investigate the standards of other Mountain Valley Conference schools. Welch came back to the board Jan. 15 with data from a staff and student survey as well as a recap on communication from other schools.
“We are one of the only schools that has a 60% as a passing mark. Another has a 65% and the rest are at the 70%,” said Welch.
In the survey, 62% of faculty supported raising the passing grade. “Oddly, 78% of the students said they think we should keep it at a 60%.”
Welch said one of his concerns was if raising the passing grade would have any impact on high-achieving students. While 33% of students scored 80% or above in all their courses in the first quarter, the change will affect most students in the mid-range and could end up pushing up the honors qualifications from 90% to 93%, he said.
Fifty-three students had at least one grade between 60% and 69%, said Welch. That means nearly a third of students would have failed a course with the new passing grade.
“I'm not being facetious, but don't your teachers just change how they do their rubrics,” asked committee member Peggy Splaine.
Welch said that is likely true, but the important thing for everyone to remember is, “At the end of the day: Has the student demonstrated enough knowledge and skills to get a passing grade?”
In a followup interview, Welch said many of the schools he contacted are proficiency-based, not traditional, GPA-based. The schools that still use grades for assessment were not able to speak to any transitions from lower to higher passing grades because it has not been done in recent memory.
Welch commented on the change that takes effect next school year: “I find if you raise the bar, most of the time students will meet you there. Athletes have to keep a certain standing, so they will do what they need to do … I don't personally have a strong feeling on this one way or another, but … in all, I think a large majority of students will easily meet this expectation.”
The committee gave a consensus that the passing grade should be raised; no vote was necessary according to policy. Splaine, Chair Larry Colcord and Vice-Chair Stephanie Hawke said they felt it is the right thing to do.
“I don't think 70% is a lot to ask for,” said Hawke.
“It's what it used to be,” said Colcord.
In an interview after the CSD meeting, Perkins said he felt the board made the right move and he was happy to have brought attention to the issue.
“I’m proud to hear that … my Champions of Change project has actually had an impact on the community and school. I appreciate having had the opportunity in Mr. Gorey’s AP Language class to explore this issue, and with the help of the Register, having been able to shed some light onto it to the public.”