An article in the Sept. 15 Montgomery Extra reported that NARAL Pro-Choice America was among the groups that submitted applications to be a part of the Montgomery County public school system's Family Life Advisory Committee. It was the group's state affiliate, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, that submitted an application. (Published 9/22/2005)

It appears that many people in Montgomery County are interested in talking about sex.

Nearly 180 residents have responded to the Board of Education's call for residents to apply to serve on its reconstituted Family Life Advisory Committee.

"There's quite a bit of interest," said school board President Patricia O'Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase). "There are going to be a lot of disappointed people."

Board members will make the final selections at their Oct. 11 meeting.

The 15-member advisory committee will work with the school system to produce a sex education curriculum to replace the one that was the subject of a lawsuit and ultimately was withdrawn in the spring.

A dispute about the revised materials drew fire from two groups that argued that their viewpoints were not being represented.

The sex-ed materials included a videotape for 10th-graders in which a cucumber is used in a demonstration of how to correctly put on a condom. The withdrawn materials also included guidelines that allowed teachers to initiate discussions about homosexuality, beginning in the eighth grade.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays sued and ultimately settled their lawsuit with the school system.

As part of that settlement, each group will have one seat on the committee. Two other spots have been set aside for Montgomery County public school students, and four will be filled by members of community-based organizations. That leaves seven seats for community members at large.

So who has applied so far? Word has it that representatives from the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America and, a group that supports the now-withdrawn revisions to the sex-education curriculum, have submitted applications.

The Latest on Grading

For those who took the summer off from debate over changes to the school system's grading and reporting initiative, here's an update.

The board has decided to delay scheduled changes to the grading system by a year. As a result, high school students will continued to receive letter -- not number -- grades that are based on how well they meet academic standards. The board also will delay a plan to give students separate marks for participation and effort.

The issue of reteaching and reassessment was huge at both the middle and high school levels in the last school year, and the school system is trying to ensure that all campuses have a uniform policy on how many times a student can retake a test and what types of tests students are allowed to retake.

Students will get one reassessment opportunity per task or assignment within a unit, and the grade they receive on that activity will replace the previous grade. But there are limits:

Students are not allowed to retake or rewrite cumulative exams at the end of a course or semester, exams at the end of individual units, final research papers, reports or essays or culminating projects or performances.

The new policy divides homework -- which is another big issue -- into two categories: homework checked for completion counts for up to 10 percent of the grade; homework for learning will count toward the remaining portion of the grade.

All campuses also have been asked to appoint a parent liaison who will help to address questions and concerns about the grading and reporting system.

Charts outlining the changes at each level are available at

School News Via E-mail

For those who want to keep up on the very latest events, the school system is launching QuickNotes, an e-mail service available to people interested in news about Montgomery County schools.

The notes will be available in six languages: English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, French and Korean. Visit to subscribe.