Wednesday, December 11, 2013
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October 23, 2013
DALLAS -- What could be considered a poor choice of words on grading guidelines for a LaCreole Middle School community service assignment has some parents upset.
The project is part of the school's eighth-grade civics class and asked students to perform 12 hours of community service to earn the equivalent of an `A' on the assignment.
While some parents weren't keen on the idea of mandatory community service, it was the grading guidelines that was the source of most anger.
A project description and "scoring rubric" of the semester-long project was sent home with eighth-graders at the beginning of the year. It included what is required to earn each level of grade, but instead of listing them as A, B, C or D, the descriptions where "Civil Servant," "Good Citizen," "Apathetic Bystander," and "Menace to Society." Students who perform less than five hours of community service were given the latter grade.
Principal Jamie Richardson said the assignment -- and its grading guidelines -- has been part of the class for several years and this is the first time parents have complained. Enough parents had concerns the school has changed the scoring guidelines say "does not met," "nearly meets," "meets," and "exceeds."
However, a few parents brought the subject up again at a public forum Oct. 15 during state Deputy Superintendent of Public Education Rob Saxton's visit to Dallas.
"I was really, really offended ... " said Karen Bales, a parent of a LaCreole eighth-grader. "You do not have the right to label my child, or any other child I know, as a menace to society."
Richardson said no harm was meant. He said teachers use what is called "proficiency grading," which in part entails providing a detailed description of what it takes to earn specific grades. When appropriate, students help coming up with fun or creative "titles" for grades. Richardson added, though, he wasn't sure that was the case for this assignment.
"It's written in a way that is meant to be understandable to the kids and be fun," he said. "It was meant to be fun, but taken out of context I could see how it would look awful... The intent certainly is not to hurt anyone and the kids get a little giggle out of it."
Dallas Superintendent Christy Perry briefly addressed the concerns at the Oct. 15 meeting, saying the issue will continue to be discussed. She added she believes community service is an appropriate assignment, but understood concerns about scoring guidelines.
"I get what you are saying, I do, and that is why we changed it." Perry said.
Richardson many parents he's spoken like the assignment, even if they acknowledge using "menace to society" in scoring may not have been the best choice.
He said the object of the assignment is to "expose students to civics and being part of the community," and hopes that isn't overshadowed by the grading controversy.
"It's a good project, which is unfortunate because it doesn't look like it now," he said.