There are a lot of things that can be talked about under this topic.  I'm posting this article that I received just to get the reader started on the mindless educrat logic that transpires daily in our country.

One need not ever be surprised at what they advocate, and mostly what they advocate is of the dumbing down variety.  I'm starting to see that some who are in positions of authority are themselves products of the dumbing down efforts.  After all, dumbing down has been going on since 1970, so some at the administrative level are true products!

Elementary schools in one (at least) West Virginia county stopped giving grades for science and social studies.  Administrator Toole said he only wants schools to succeed.

Wednesday September 8, 2010

Harrison County schools stop giving grades for science, social studies

System focusing on improving test scores in reading, math

by Zack Harold

Daily Mail staff

Charleston Daily Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Increased pressure to improve student performance in reading and math - the subjects that get the most Westest reporting scrutiny - is causing at least one county to de-emphasize some other academic areas.

Starting this year, some Harrison County elementary students won't receive grades in social studies or science.

Instead, teachers will incorporate those subjects into their reading lesson and mark students as "satisfactory," "unsatisfactory" or "needs improvement."

Harrison education officials said the new grading policy will allow teachers to put more emphasis on reading and math - subjects the state education department uses to measure progress on the Westest  - while still covering the required science and social studies curriculum.

The policy has its detractors.

Harrison school board members Mike Queen and David Sturn say the county doesn't have a clear definition of "satisfactory," "unsatisfactory" and "needs improvement." They also say waiving letter grades will confuse parents.

Five Harrison elementary schools will try the new grading system, though some will apply it more broadly than others.

Norwood, West Milford and Johnson elementaries won't give third-graders letter grades in social studies and science. Nutter Fort Intermediate will apply the policy to third and fourth grades and North View Elementary will apply it to third, fourth and fifth grades.

Ron Toole, the county's administrative assistant over elementary schools, said Nutter Fort Intermediate's staff came up with the idea for an altered grading policy and Superintendent Susan Collins asked him to introduce it to other elementary schools.

He said the participating schools liked the idea because increasing time requirements for reading and math instruction are making it difficult for teachers to squeeze in social studies and science.

Toole said schools are required to spend an extra 30 minutes every day providing struggling students with reading "interventions."

If students aren't grasping subjects in the regular classroom setting, teachers put them in small groups or give them individual attention to ensure they learn the material.

Starting this year, Harrison schools also have to find an extra 30 minutes three times a week for similar math interventions, Toole said.

"Where's all this time going to come from? There's no more time in the school day," he said.

By incorporating science and social studies into the reading curriculum, Toole said teachers would create more time in their schedules. But since social studies and science aren't being taught as separate subjects, teachers can't give students grades for them.

School board member Paul Howe said the new grading policy would give teachers more freedom in the classroom, where they often feel "inundated" by constant assessments and educational benchmarking tests.

"In lieu of giving (students) quizzes and testing, the teachers are trying to spend more time on teaching," he said.

Queen and Sturn voted against the waivers at a July meeting.

"Basically we've watered down the curriculum for science and social studies here in Harrison County," Queen said. "They're taking second fiddle. They're certainly being de-emphasized."

Queen said he's worried because the grading policy doesn't have a set definition for  "satisfactory," "unsatisfactory" and "needs improvement." He said parents know where students stand with traditional A's, B's and C's.

Sturn, who took office in July, said he talked with current and former educators and administrators about the waiver before voting. He said none of those experts liked the idea of dropping letter grades.

 "Kids, when they don't receive that grade, parents don't know how to assess how their child's performing," he said. "Any time you don't give children an opportunity to receive grades, you lose the opportunity to have the metrics in place to assess their performance."

The board will have an opportunity to review the waiver's success.

Members asked Toole to keep track of schools' success under the waiver and report back to the board in six months.

Toole said he only wants schools to succeed and will stand behind schools if the grade waiver works out.

"If we never try it, then we're never going to know," he said.

But Toole said he understood Sturn and Queen's concerns and if the new policy hurts schools' performance, "I'm just going to say, 'I'm sorry but this isn't working out.' "

Howe said the school system's curriculum coordinator is currently working to create standard definitions for the three designations.

West Milford Elementary Principal Wendy Imperial said Harrison County Schools already had a similar program for first-, second- and third-graders.

Imperial said those students don't receive letter grades on their report cards for the first nine-week grading period.

After that grading period is over, first-graders get letter grades in reading, math, conduct and spelling and second-graders are graded in reading, English, math and conduct.

Third-graders previously received grades in math, reading, English, spelling, science, social studies and health after the first nine weeks.

Imperial said her school also waived grades for third-grade social studies and science during the final two weeks of school last spring.

Mounting snow days cut down on students' class time, limiting their Westest preparation opportunities.

Imperial said her school incorporated science and social studies into reading and improved standardized test scores in all three areas.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or