- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina Board of Education members are weighing whether grades for students’ conduct should be included on report cards.

Board member Larry Kobrovsky proposed Wednesday requiring all districts to give students a letter grade for their effort, punctuality and neatness. Such skills are necessary for success in life, and the only way to stress expectations of personal responsibility is to put a grade on it, he said.

“This is the missing element,” said Kobrovsky, a former Charleston County School Board member. “No matter how much we spend, we won’t be successful unless we mold students to work hard. The only way we can do that is to grade that.”

Chairwoman-elect Traci Young Cooper said she’s adamantly opposed. The former state teacher of the year noted that report cards include a place for teachers to provide parents information on students’ conduct. If state standards set high expectations, then students’ classroom grades already reflect their personal character skills, she said.

“It’s already embedded in the way we assess our students,” she said.

Department of Education officials told board members that conduct may be difficult to assess for students with physical and emotional disabilities. If their conduct is a function of their disability, grading them on it could interfere with the law, said John Payne, director of the Office of Special Education Services.

The subcommittee postponed further discussion until next month’s meeting.

Some questioned whether such a policy would require legislative action.

Currently, districts can choose to grade students’ conduct. It’s unclear how many do. Agency officials were asked to compile that information.

Kobrovsky, an attorney who has represented teachers in schools with discipline problems, said many adults incorrectly assume students receive conduct grades because the adults received such grades in school. He wants conduct grades to become part of students’ permanent file, saying they should be as important as academic grades.

He unsuccessfully proposed conduct grades for Charleston County schools while on that district’s board.

“The lack of emphasis on attitude seems to be that we don’t have the right to judge those things anymore, but if we don’t, nothing is possible,” he said.

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