News and Tribune

Education/Schools

November 13, 2012

Student protests grading system differences in NA-FC schools

Board member upset that father talked to the media

NEW ALBANY — A student and his father Monday night addressed the board of the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. about grading systems at the high schools, which they say are unfair.

Jesse Renn, a senior at Floyd Central High School, and his father Neal, said since the grades at his school aren’t weighted the same way they are at New Albany High School, Jesse didn’t qualify for a scholarship at Indiana University.

After talking to administrators and board members personally, Jesse and his father requested a hearing before the board. During the public comments section of the board, Jesse said he just wanted to be graded the same way students are at NAHS.

“All we’re asking is to be put on a level playing field with other schools including New Albany,” Jesse said. “Almost every school in the state weights GPAs. Doing so gives their kids an edge in getting scholarship and grant money.”

The regular meeting’s agenda item for the hearing request brought a motion for denial by Neal Smith, board member. Mark Boone, board president, seconded the motion.

Smith said while he was voting against the hearing, he did want to see some kind of solution offered.

“I think we need to look at what remedies there are to this case with an eye on what we’re opening the door up to,” Smith said.

Boone said that students knew what the policies were to begin with and nothing had been hidden from them.

But he said he admired the fact that Neal had followed the proper channels in the chain of command up to the board, but didn’t appreciate the negative media attention sought by Neal Renn after he was told the grading systems would not change.

Neal Renn had spoken to other news outlets, including 84 WHAS, about the issues he had with the grading scales Monday morning.

Boone said that was when he decided he’d had enough.

“This isn’t about [punishing] the kid, this is about trying to find an equitable solution,” Boone said. “For seven of the eight semesters in high school, these kids knew what their grading scale was. The creativity, Neal, that you talk about? I lost my creativity today when someone was on 84 WHAS talking about how bad our corporation is. The same people that are trying to help are being talked about in the news media. We didn’t change the rules on anybody.”

Lee Cotner, board member, said he wasn’t sure the position the board was trying to take.

“We’re kind of talking out of both sides of our mouth,” Cotner said. “We want to get creative, we want to see what we can do, but yet, we’ve got a motion on the floor not to give the student a hearing to see what they could propose or say or what their position is.”

But Boone said by changing the system, the class rankings of students could shift to negatively affect high-achieving students, which might open the board up to litigation. The board voted against giving the Renns a hearing, with Cotner and Becky Gardenour, board member, voting to allow it. Roger Whaley abstained from the vote. Whaley’s wife, Janie Whaley, is the principal at Floyd Central and one of the points of contact the Renns used before requesting a board hearing.

After the meeting, Jesse said students are encouraged to take Advanced Placement courses, but the weighting system gives students at NAHS a decidedly higher point advantage.

“We’ve been trying to help him,” Boone said. “We contacted IU on behalf of him and they didn’t want to hear about this.”

He said Louis Jensen, director of high schools, has written letters to Indiana University on Jesse’s behalf explaining what the GPA would look like if it were weighted like New Albany High School.

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