School board approves higher standard at NHS

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The minimum passing grade at Naugatuck High School will be raised from a 60 to a 70 next school year. –FILE PHOTO
The minimum passing grade at Naugatuck High School will be raised from a 60 to a 70 next school year. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School students will have to work harder next year if they want to pass their classes.

The Board of Education Thursday night approved raising the minimum passing grade at the high school from a 60 to a 70. The change will be implemented next school year.

“We’ve changed to common core and with the push for college readiness I don’t feel, and neither does the staff, … that a grade of 60 accurately prepares students for life beyond high school,” Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam told the board.

Saam said allowing the students to graduate with a lower grade isn’t actually helping them as they leave the high school.

“We’re handing them a diploma and saying, ‘You only know 60 percent. You only have 60 percent of mastery,’ is what we’re really saying. So I think we’re doing a disservice to students by letting them go with 60 percent. We need to raise the bar,” Saam said.

Grades at the high school awarded on a 100-point scale, rather than letter-based, and will remain that way after the change.

Saam told the board some students have said they only do enough work to get by and that, by raising the passing grade, it will encourage the students to work harder to pass.

For other students who have been earning higher grades throughout their high school career this change will have no affect, Saam said.

The change would apply to all traditional and online high school courses and those offered at City Hill Middle School for high school credit. Honors and Advanced Placement courses will continue to have additional weight in calculating grade point averages.

Saam did not think raising the passing grade will have a drastic impact on students failing, but would rather encourage those students to try harder.

“Do I anticipate a slight increase in the failures? Possibly. But I think, overall, we’re sending a message that we want excellence and we shouldn’t be sending the students out into the world with a 60. I just don’t feel it’s a high enough bar to set for them,” Saam said.

Saam said she wasn’t worried that students playing sports might not meet the higher minimum passing grade either. She said student-athletes are committed to playing their sport, it is often their best quarter in school as well.

“They kick it in when they need to. Which is why we’re saying this is what you need to do to be successful,” Saam said.

The board agreed with Saam’s proposal to raise the minimum passing grade, and board member Glenn Connan even gave it a standing ovation.

“I think this is great,” board member Diana Malone said.

Saam said she will notify students of the new grade requirements in a letter during the summer.

The minimum passing grade varies at local high schools. The change at Naugatuck High brings it inline with Region 16’s Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls, which also uses the equivalent of a 70 as the minimum passing grade although the school uses a letter-based grading structure.

In the Waterbury public school system the minimum passing grade is a 65 at the high schools, while students at Seymour High School must get a 60 to pass. Both school systems use numerical grading structures.

The higher minimum passing grade is a reflection of what Naugatuck High expects from the students, Saam explained.

“I think the message has to be out there that we expect rigor, we want rigor,” Saam said.