School board will revisit eighth grade credit policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Feb 8 13:48:07 UTC 2006

Forwarded from

APPALACHIA - A controversial policy change that limits the opportunities
for Wise County eighth graders to earn high school credit will be placed
back on the school board's agenda at its next meeting.  Board member Mark
Hutchinson, who represents District One, informed the board at a Monday
workshop held at Appalachia High School that he intends to introduce a
motion to rescind the planned policy change at the board's Feb. 13

Eighth graders previously had the option to earn high school credit
through a variety of electives, including keyboarding, band, chorus, art
and work and family studies. They also could earn high school credits for
Algebra I and foreign language courses. The modification, proposed by
assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment Haydee
Robinson, limits the options to just the academic classes - algebra and
foreign language. The change is set to take effect in fall 2006.

Appalachia resident Michelle Hylton expressed concerns that have been
voiced by several parents at board meetings since the policy was approved.
Hylton told the board that her daughter, now a junior at Appalachia High
School, received a needed fine arts credit by taking band in the eighth
grade. Finding time to schedule all of the classes needed for a diploma is
difficult at a small school such as Appalachia, Hylton added. "If they
don't get those credits in the eighth grade, they may not get them,"
Hylton explained.

Students in St. Paul and Appalachia have an additional problem under the
new policy, she added. Eighth grade is housed in the high school in those
towns. While students in Pound, Powell Valley, Coeburn and Wise have the
advantage of attending shorter 45-minute "exploratory" classes tailored
for middle schoolers, students in St. Paul and Appalachia must sit through
90-minute blocks of class, and denying them credits is unfair, Hylton
said. When she originally presented the policy change, Robinson said the
changes would allow eighth graders more opportunity to explore a variety
of interests, rather than locking them into the 90-minute blocks of
instruction time required for high school credit all semester long. If
high school credit is out of the picture, eighth graders can experience
more electives by taking more than one 45-minute exploratory course, she

Board members received a copy of the new policy in their packets Monday,
but did not receive a copy of the previous policy, nor did their packets
outline the changes made. New board member Betty Cornett and chairman
Barry Nelson were both concerned that they could not compare the previous
policy and the new one.  Cornett asked schools superintendent Greg
Killough to be sure that future policy changes be shown with highlighting.
Nelson asked for a copy of the previous policy to be included in the
February board packet.

Killough suggested a refresher presentation to outline the policy changes
for new board members. Being informed could help the four new board
members understand the policy, then action could be taken, Killough said.
District Three member Cecilia Robinette asked when the policy had taken
effect, noting that she understood it would take effect for the spring
semester. Robinson said administration plans to implement the new elective
credit policy at the beginning of the 2006-07 school year.

New board member Monty Salyer, who represents District Four, wondered if
the policy affects eighth grade holdbacks. Killough explained that the
school system does not have a specific policy on holdbacks. However, the
modified policy included in the board packet does specify that eighth
graders who must repeat a grade may be required to repeat courses even if
they received a passing grade the previous year.

The policy change narrowly passed when it came before the board in
September 2005, with the board split 5-3. Current board members
Hutchinson, Kyle Fletcher and Robinette all voiced strong opposition to
the policy then. The only remaining board member who voted in favor of the
policy is Margaret Craft.

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