The following column is “Notes from the Board Table,” the regular update from Bruce Likly, chairman of the Wilton Board of Education. 

If you find yourself with a few extra minutes, you might want to take a look at the “policies and regulations” section of the district website. I’m only half-kidding.

Our policies and regulations are the “rules of the road” for the Wilton Public Schools. They touch on everything from safety/security to curriculum issues to staff/student conduct. The policies reflect the values of the Wilton community, and our commitment to providing the highest quality education for our students, while also ensuring our compliance with all federal and state mandates.

Ensuring that policies are in alignment with current best practices in teaching and learning, and reflective of community standards, is a key responsibility of the Board of Education. I like to say that our policies are not etched in stone, but instead are open to amendment as changes are warranted. For example, policies adopted 10 or 15 years ago clearly would not be adequate to reflect today’s technology-driven world. Could previous Boards ever have imagined a world in which students brought their own phones to school (and are at times encouraged by their teachers to use them for class work)? Or a situation in which a teacher standing in front of a class lecturing for 45 minutes was not the norm? Or the impact the Internet would have?

Last year we began a thorough review of each and every one of our existing policies. This work, which will be spearheaded by the Board’s “Communication, Policy and Alignment” committee consisting of Superintendent Smith, Board member Chris Finkelstein and myself, will consider each of our policies with the following objectives in mind:

  • Is the policy reflective of current District/community priorities?
  • Is the policy consistent with any changes to federal/state law?
  • How can we align the policy more closely with our District Vision?
  • Has the policy become obsolete?

In addition, we are aware that we may need to implement new policies, as situations arise that may not be addressed by anything currently “on the books.” As I mentioned, changes in technology, including mobile devices and social media, will need to be addressed via a district policy.

When we began our work last fall, it became very obvious that this will be a multi-year endeavor. We will conduct policy review discussions via our committee meetings (which are open to the public), and bring our recommendations to the full Board for further review and discussion. Our committee does not have the authority to make binding decisions, so any work we complete will go to the full Board with our recommendation for action.

Policy 6147:  Weighted Grades

Let me briefly touch on one policy currently under review:  Policy 6147:  Weighted Grades.

According to this policy, which was adopted in 1999, Wilton High School does not “weight grades.” What this means, is that students are graded on a “traditional” point scale and no extra credit is given for students who take more challenging courses. This means that a student who takes multiple honors courses and Advanced Placement courses while at Wilton High School, might end up with a Grade Point Average (GPA) that is lower than it would have been had the student not chosen to take the more difficult courses.

To address this, some high schools choose to “weight” their grades, so that extra credit is allocated for more rigorous courses. Whereas the highest GPA attainable at Wilton High School is 4.0, students attending schools that weight grades can attain a GPA of 5.0, 6.0, or even higher depending on the weighting scale in place.

In today’s Common Application-driven college admissions process, some colleges are receiving far more applications than they did previously. As a result, there is significant concern among parents that students with non-weighted GPA’s might be at a disadvantage, as hurried admissions counselors might fail to take into account the totality of a transcript, and just look at the GPA.

Our committee has begun an in-depth review of this policy. We will consult with WHS staff members who have direct knowledge of the college application process; speak with college placement consultants and admissions officers; and of course seek input from the community.

The work of this committee, the “Communications, Alignment, and Policy” committee, is in addition to work ongoing by our two other committees:  the “Business Planning” committee, comprised of Board members Chris Stroup and Glenn Hemmerle along with Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith; and the “Teaching and Learning” committee, which includes Board members Lory Rothstein and Laura Schwemm, and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Chuck Smith.

I know there will be strong interest as our committees delve deeper into their areas of expertise. We will certainly keep the community advised of all scheduled meetings and updates, and would welcome any relevant input.