February 15, 2018
Dear Benjamin School Parents,
I hope that this letter finds you well. Here at Benjamin, we are in the midst of an exciting and successful year. Our various programs have been recognized at the state and national levels, and our students, artists, and student-athletes have compiled a notable record of achievement over the first half of the year.
In the midst of these successes, we have also--as any good institution should--spent a good deal of time listening to our constituents and appraising all aspects of our program. To that end, I have been working, over the last several months, with our school administrative team to review a number of our academic and grading policies. Specifically, we wanted to be sure that those practices were consistent with what we are seeing at other fine independent schools across the country as well as schools locally. As a result of our analysis, we are implementing several changes which are outlined below.
To fall more in line with the GPA policies in the Palm Beach School District and peer independent schools in this region, we will be changing the GPA weight for honors and AP courses. Our honors courses will now include a .5 addition instead of a .33. AP courses will now have a 1.0 addition instead of a .66. For example, a student who makes an A in a regular class will earn a 4.0, while in an honors class that would rise to 4.5, and an AP course would rise to 5.0. While colleges generally recalculate transcript grades using their own system, and many scholarship programs use an unweighted GPA, there are times when this weighting will be of benefit to our students. The policy will go into effect this spring for all 9th through 11th grade students and will be applied retroactively to the first semester of their 9th grade year. The recalculations will be made in June after the end of the second semester and will appear on student transcripts at that time and each semester thereafter.
In the Upper School, to better help students with their time commitments, we are adjusting our Physical Education requirement to allow those students who participate in interscholastic athletics to waive their PE requirement. All others need to meet the minimum expectation of two semesters of PE over the four years they are in the Upper School. In addition, we are broadening our PE options so that students may choose physical education courses that better meet their individual needs.
We are also reducing the value of end-of-semester examinations from 20% of the grade to 15%. This policy will go into effect with this spring’s examinations and will be applied to each semester thereafter. The Middle School will be doing the same. We looked at both the impact of the exams on the final grade and the stress level of students and decided that this was an appropriate change that, again, is consistent with other schools that I have known and for which I have worked.
After the long February weekend, we will be forwarding an adjusted parent survey of the sort we have used for a number of years. We would love your feedback about how we are doing. Just as we have set high standards for our students, we also work continuously to set and meet high standards for ourselves. We realize that there will always be room for improvement, and we look forward to reading your assessment so that we may sharpen our focus on the issues that most need our attention.
Because we have not finished evaluating and reviewing policy, we may make more changes that will be communicated in a future letter.
Before closing, I want to thank you again for your sustained support as I address my current medical challenges. Along with my colleagues, I continue to do everything I can to help make Benjamin the very best of schools that serves the most crucial interests of our students in every way. Please know that I continue to be heartened by the strength of this community.
All my best,
Head of School