Changes to policies including adding “Distinguished High Honors” to academic recognition for graduation from Cabot High School, and for food service payments by students were on the agenda at the July 17 meeting of the Cabot School District Board of Directors.

Advanced Placement exam results, middle school grading and evaluation of the Gifted and Talented program were also discussed.

School board vice president Dean Martin presided, board members Brian Evans, Donna Nash, Mark D. Russell, Sarah Owen and Corey Williams attended the meeting, Ricky Hill was absent; superintendent Tony Thurman also attended - GT and AP program director Aaron Randolph, and middle school principals Dawn Peeples and Casey Hannah spoke on issues.

Peeples and Hannah spoke about committee consideration of ensuring consistent grading practices between the two middle schools, and improving parent-school communication. “We want to look through the lens of the parent,” Hannah remarked about understanding grading criteria.

Peeples said that, “We want to give parents a holistic view of how their child is doing in school, because it is so much more than a grade on a report card. Discussion focused on developing “lifelong learning skills,” included classroom conduct by the student, work habits, wise use of time, and other areas, she said.

A brochure has been produced that explains the learning skills, grading criteria, and how to go online to monitor student progress on a daily basis, and an email report available to parents, Hannah said.

Developing a point system, to reduce or eliminate disparities in student reports between teachers is being considered to avoid confusion, she said.

On AP exam results, Randolph explained the grades of 1 through 5, and the significance of reducing the number of “1” grades, which amounts to noting the student took the exam. While “2” shows the student is at the high school level, “’3’ is the magic number,” Randolph said.

This score is where universities grant college credit, Randolph said. Thus, “We consider a successful exam score as 3, 4 or 5.”

So far this year, with 792 students have taken AP exams, with 25 late exams whose scores have not yet been received, the district’s success rate is 52.3 percent, and is only the third time since 2004 the rate has been above 50 percent; the state rate is 33 percent, Randolph said. Also, 64 percent of Cabot students taking the exam got at least one “3,” “That is fantastic,” he remarked. The success rate is an average of exams taken, with some students taking only one but others taking up to six, he explained.

Also affecting the average is that Arkansas pays the exam fees rather than the individuals, and the exam is part of the requirement to be credited for the for an AP course, which increases the number of exams taken, Randolph said. Considering that in other areas, students are “handpicked” to take the exam, makes Cabot’s result all the more “exciting,” “More than two thirds of our students have been successful,” he remarked.

Board members approved adding “Distinguished High Honors” academic recognition for graduates of Cabot High School; this will be along with “Honors” and “High Honors.”

Students with GPAs of 3.5 to 3.75 will be designated as graduating with “Honors.”

Students with GPAs higher than 3.75, and have completed one additional AP or concurrent credit course will be designated as graduating with “High Honors.”

Students with GPAs of 4.0 or higher and have completed two additional AP or concurrent credit courses, will be designated as graduating with “Distinguished High Honors.”

Also, to qualify for graduation honors, students cannot have a D or F on their final transcript.

On food service payments by students, district food services director Erin Wilkes explained suggested revised policy.

Federal reporting requirements do not allow credit to be extended for meals. Meals should be paid daily or in advance; alternate meals will be provided for K-6 students with a negative balance of $10; 7-12 students with a balance of $10 will be responsible for their own meals.

Any debt after a student graduates or moves from the district will be restored by the district with non-federal funds.

After June 1 each year, any cafeteria charge greater than $10 will be paid using funds from the school at which the debt was incurred.