A South-Western school district grading committee has modified a new high school grading policy that has been criticized by a school board member, teachers and residents.

A South-Western school district grading committee has modified a new high school grading policy that has been criticized by a school board member, teachers and residents.

The grading policy, implemented in August, changed the weight of final grades. Before the change, final grades were weighted on a zero-to-100 scale. Now final grades are weighted on a 4.0 scale, officials said.

Residents, teachers and school board member Jo Ellen Myers voiced concern earlier this year with the changed policy, saying it allowed students to "work the system," or essentially skip class at the end of a grading period after receiving enough points to pass.

The latest changes will require students next school year to pass a certain number of six-week grading periods to receive a passing grade.

Assistant superintendent Lois Rapp told school board members during a meeting on May 24 the changes will require students to pass five of eight six-week grading periods with a score of a D minus or higher.

For one-semester courses, students will be required to pass three of four grading periods to pass the course.

After holding meetings with teachers, parents and guidance counselors in high schools, the grading committee decided to modify the policy, Rapp said.

"We heard clearly from teachers we had some students working the system," Rapp said.

She said teachers told the grading committee earlier this year that students could work hard enough in the beginning of a course to receive just enough points to pass and "could in essence do nothing the rest of the year and still get a passing grade."

Rapp told school board members in March that the grading policy had received some critical feedback from teachers in each of the high schools. She and the rest of the grading committee have since worked with students and faculty to come up with proper changes to the revised policy, she said.

"We took all of that information and embedded it into this document," Rapp said.

Myers told Rapp some Central Crossing High School students told her they skipped 78 days of class this school year. "They said it was because of the new grading policy," Myers said.

Rapp said some students missed days before the grading policy originally was changed.

Rapp said school officials might need to research the "bigger issue" of engaging students.

"You can lead them to water, but you can't always make them drink," she said.

In other business, Gary Sigrist, a school district safety official, said staff will implement a districtwide visitor identification system next school year.

He said the new system cost about $25,000 for computers and printers at each of the 36 schools in the district. That cost was funded by federal grant money allocated for school security.

The software and cameras needed for the security system were donated by a Florida-based company called IDENT-A-KID Services of America.

"The cost to the district was none," Sigrist said.

Secretaries will be required next school year to take a photograph of parents or guardians every time they enter a school to pick up their children. Substitutes also will be required to carry identification, Sigrist said.

Also at the meeting, Finland Middle School social studies teacher Dave Hampson told school board members a $250,000 technology grant has allowed the school to purchase new equipment and training for the nearly complete 2009-10 school year.

He said the equipment and training have improved learning in classrooms this year.

"It's not us just using technology," Hampson said. "It's using technology as a tool to enhance our classrooms."

Three other schools in the district have received $250,000 grants, Rapp said. They will implement new technology and training by next school year, she said.