Expecting detrimental scores, New Hanover County Schools asks the state for leniency on final exams

Students took end-of-course tests this week. The New Hanover County Schools board is now asking the state not to count those scores against them. (Port City Daily photo/file)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The New Hanover County Schools board is taking a unified stance and asking the state not to count end-of-course tests against student grades.

Failure rates from the first nine weeks show students struggled academically this semester. Nearly 30% of high schoolers – a total of 2,425 students – were failing in the first quarter. The results of the end-of-course exams will account for 20% of students’ grades in classes with the state-mandated assessments.

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However, the North Carolina Rules Review Commission is asking stakeholders’ opinions on continuing with the board policy to count the tests as 20% of the students’ grades.

Last Saturday NHCS Superintendent Charles Foust presented an objection form to the New Hanover County Board of Education to complete and send to the rules review commission.

“I think there is pretty much a large agreement across the state that, because this is such an atypical year, there should be some additional grace provided to students,” Deputy Superintendent LaChawn Smith said in an interview.

NHCS’ objection does not automatically grant the district the authority to waive the policy; rather, it provides feedback to the rules committee. If the rule changed, the district would have the ability to alter scores that were negatively impacted, Smith explained.

The board members were in unanimous agreement of sending the objection form.

“Please send the letter,” member Hugh McManus said during the recent meeting. “Obviously, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how the kids are going to do.”

Currently, students are either only attending face-to-face schooling two days a week or are enrolled in 100% remote learning.

As this unusual semester came to a close, NHCS students in high school courses were in classrooms in person this week taking their required assessments.

On any single exam day, approximately one-fourth of the traditional high schools’ populations joined in the buildings. NHCS said in a statement, prior to testing, it was continuing to implement screening procedures and testing rooms would be “properly socially distanced.”

To help push struggling seniors past the finish line this school year, the board of education waived the number of required credit hours for graduation. The district is using the state graduation criteria of 22 credits rather than the NHCS criteria of 28. Also, school faculties were granted leeway to support students who need to recover lost credits.

Parents with concerns about end-of-course testing requirements can voice those to the rules committee by mailing, emailing or faxing the objection letter. Smith said the form is a clear and concise way to do so.

“You guys write us all the time,” school board Vice Chair Nelson Beaulieu told viewers of the Saturday meeting. “I am urging you: write your state legislatures, immediately — again and again and again.”

Send tips and comments to Alex Sands at alexandria@localdailymedia.com

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