GCS Prepares Students for Delayed Final Grades

Guilford County Schools (GCS) staff is working with parents and students to explain why high schoolers will receive a temporary grade of "incomplete" in three required courses this winter.

This year, GCS, as well as all other districts in North Carolina, moved to the new Common Core State Standards. GCS staff has been working hard to create lessons to align with the new higher standards. In addition, the state Department of Public Instruction creates and scores tests for certain required courses. Since the Common Core curriculum is so new, there has been a delay in creating and validating the new final End-of-Course (EOC) tests in Algebra I, English II and Biology.

Whenever a new test is developed, the state wants to ensure it is fair and reliable. Assessing the tests takes time, so GCS will not have the final test scores for those EOC exams until October 2013. In the meantime, the state will provide GCS with a score the district can use to calculate students' final grades. The district had the option of determining whether the score would be part of a student's final grade and decided to maintain the current practice. That number will be calculated as 25 percent of the final grade in those courses.

Those scores will not be available until at least the end of January, which is after GCS sends report cards home. Students will receive a temporary grade of "incomplete" in those courses until the district receives the scores from the state. At that time, staff will immediately calculate final grades and send out a second, updated report card.

According to the state, English II scores may be delayed even further, because it will take longer to grade questions with written answers, as opposed to multiple-choice options.

Student-athletes affected by the delayed scores will be allowed to participate in winter and spring athletics until their final grade-point average is in, as long as they meet all other eligibility requirements. As soon as the scores are available, staff will recalculate student-athletes' grade-point averages and determine whether they are still eligible.

GCS created a comprehensive plan to address the situation, which includes a district-level team to answer questions and assist principals. Each high school also created a team to work with individual students' situations and develop plans for their needs.

"We know this is frustrating for our parents, students and staff," said Chief Academic Officer Dr.  Beth Folger. "We are doing our best to communicate accurate, timely information with our families, and will continue providing updates as soon as we have new details."

School principals sent Connect-ED phone messages to all impacted families, and will send a letter and flier home with report cards for students in those three courses. There is also updated information about the delayed grades on the GCS Common Core website.