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Grade 8.5? That's where some students who fail the CRCT may head

If passing the eighth grade’s version of the CRCT wasn’t important enough for a student’s future, it just got even more important.

If a student this school year does not pass a part of the CRCT, that student could become one of a possible 20 to attend “Grade 8.5: -- a midpoint between eighth and ninth grades.

The classroom for the select students will be housed on the eighth grade hall at the middle school. The class will have its own teacher who will be paid for through federal stimulus dollars.

“If they don’t pass that CRCT at eighth grade, they have a low chance of success at the high school,” ScrevenCountyMiddle School principal Jim Thompson told the school board. “We will try to plug any deficiencies at eighth grade so they will be prepared at high school.”

Along with readying the Grade 8.5 students to pass the CRCT, the pupils will be able to earn up to three credits – social studies (World Geography), physical science, and possibly an elective course in either business applications or technology.

“This could be somewhat controversial,” said Superintendent Whit Myers, who backed the creation of the program. “In the past, these are 20 or so kids we would have sent to high school, but instead they will keep at eighth grade.

“I can assure you that you will get phone calls on this. This would have been 20 students who would have been in ninth grade,” Myers said.

“There are going to be cases of ‘Your child got placed, but mine got put in 8.5,’” Thompson said. “Hopefully, it won’t be that big of an issue because we won’t have that many (students in the class). This is a new idea. I want it to be successful.”

Thompson said he wants this program to help the students who are chosen.

“I don’t want this to be a punitive thing,” Thompson said. “I don’t think every kid who failed the CRCT should go into this program. For some, placing them (up to high school freshman status) doesn’t help them and retaining them doesn’t help them.”

“I think it sounds like a good idea,” said Lindy Sheppard, school board chairman, of Grade 8.5.

The concept of Grade 8.5 is not completely new to Georgia school systems. In neighboring EffinghamCounty, that school system has a Ninth Grade Academy program.

Thompson said for those students who work hard, ninth grade credits can be earned.

“If these students can get these credits, they have a better chance of being successful and graduating on time,” Thompson said.

According to the Adequate Yearly Progress of the federal No Child Left Behind, graduation on time is with within four years of entrance into high school.

“You hope parents will trust what we have seen (in the students),” he said. “Sometimes placement is the best for the child.”

The students who will attend Grade 8.5 may be able to still grade with their classmates if a school board policy is amended. The policy, school officials say, would have to change to allow students the opportunity to graduate from high school in three years instead of the current mandatory four.

Myers said that when the high school went to seven-period format, the board and administration considered a policy change allowing students to graduate in three years if those students earned the necessary credits. The administration and board chose not to make the change them, mostly because it would mean less state dollars for the school system if students received their diplomas early, Myers said.

The superintendent said under current state board guidelines if a student fails the CRCT and the CRCT retest, the student and parents can have a meeting with a school committee. If that group agrees unanimously to the student’s promotion to the next grade level, then the child can be placed into the high school.

Myers said most of the teachers at the high school are supportive of the Grade 8.5 because those students who do not pass the CRCT struggle with classes in high school.