Student board of education member invites peers' feedback
Education, grading discussed at community meeting at Capitol Heights school
Although student turnout was low, quality education and fair grading were high priorities for students who attended a Prince George's County Public Schools student community meeting April 22 at Capitol Heights' Central High School.
The meeting, led by student Board of Education representative Edward Burroughs III, a senior at Temple Hills' Crossland High School, was a chance for students from across the county to voice concerns about class sizes, student and teacher behaviors and the county's grading policy. Burroughs said he wants to schedule a second meeting at a date to be determined to bring out more students. About 20 students attended the April 22 meeting, the first of the school year.
"This is our county," Burroughs said. "These are our public schools. And if this board is really going to fix schools, it has to start with us."
Board of Education member Donna Hathaway Beck (At-large) said she supported the environment of an open discussion and expressed her pride in Burroughs for leading the forum.
"This job, watching the student members come into office and just grow in that timeframe, is really the cherry on the cake," Beck said.
Nicole Williams of Accokeek, a junior at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, said she wanted a more personal relationship with her guidance counselor as she begins the college application process. She said she believed it was unfair that she was bounced around among multiple guidance counselors.
"I know I'm active in my school, but maybe, say, a student that doesn't know where do they go?" Williams asked.
Burroughs said the lack of personal relationships with guidance counselors is an "across-the-board problem" in the county's high schools, where students just feel like a number and not a person.
County schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. agreed that there needs to be a way to measure a counselor's ability to help students with finding jobs or with SAT preparation. Carl M. Goode Jr., who teaches SAT preparatory courses through a Lanham-based nonprofit organization, The Empowering Minds Foundation Inc., said he has taught county school students who had no idea who their counselor was and still graduated.
"We need to look on both sides to reduce administrative requirements they have and let them have more ears and guidance for individual students," Goode said.
After Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High school junior Jonathan Harris II of Upper Marlboro questioned the school system's grading policy during the forum, Hite said the grading policy would be changed for the 2010-2011 school year to a numerical system rather than a letter grade system in which letters were assigned point values. Burroughs said currently an A is worth 4 points, a B three points, a C two points and a D one point.
During the 2009-2010 school year, Burroughs campaigned to get grade averages ending in 0.5 or higher to be rounded up, a change that went into effect in the final quarter of the 2009-2010 school year. If all four grade values, for example, were added together and divided by four quarters, it would equal a 2.5, which would normally be counted as a C grade. With the change, a 2.5 would be rounded up to a B instead of remaining a C.
"We teach that 0.5 is rounded up, so all I wanted is for them to do that for the grading policy," Burroughs said.
Before opening up the floor to comments, Burroughs did highlight attention to some county school initiatives such as the Middle College program, slated to begin in the 2011-2012 school year, in which students can take high school classes and Prince George's Community College classes at the same time and graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in health sciences.
Ketsha Brown of Capitol Heights, mother of Central High junior Doneisha Moore, said the forum was "interesting," particularly student comments about communication with their guidance counselors and one Surrattsville High school student's comments on wanting school security officers to take a more active role in addressing fights among underclassmen.
"Those were shocking for me to hear as a parent," Brown said. "That's something I could return to other communities in the area."
E-mail Natalie McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org.