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Parent shares concern about Massena grading policy

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MASSENA - A Massena parent says she’s confused by the wording in a revised grading policy approved this week by the Massena Central School District’s Board of Education.

Robin M. Wolpin said that, as written, it appears students can fail a course for all four quarters of the school year, but pass the course if they obtain a 65 or better on the Regents examination.

That, she said, leads her to believe, “All you have to do is pass the Regents. Why come to class?”

The revised policy adopted by the board reads, “Student scores on NYS Regents or NYS Proficiency Exams (final/cumulative) will count 20 percent toward the final course grade. If a student fails a course and passes the corresponding NYS Regents or NYS Proficiency Exams, the final grade will the greater of the minimum passing grade (65), or the mathematic average of the summed four marking period grades and the score of the NYS Regents or NYS Proficiency Exams (all weighted at 20 percent).”

That wording is changed little from the previous version of the policy, which read, “Student scores on NYS Regents or Proficiency exams will count 20 percent toward the final course grade. If a student fails a course and passes the corresponding Regents or Proficiency exam, the final grade will be the greater of the minimum (65), or the mathematic average of the summed four making period grades and Regents or Proficiency grade (all weighted at 20 percent).”

But, Ms. Wolpin said, she found it confusing and surmised that a passing score on a Regents would override failing each quarter of the course.

“I wish there’d been some public comment before that. The part that concerns me is already approved - a student can fail all four quarters and, if they pass the Regents with a 65, they pass the course,” she said.

“I know the intent of the policy. It’s not clear in here,” Ms. Wolpin said. “What really concerns me is in a class, Algebra, you only need to know one-third of the course to get a 65 on the Regents. I think it doesn’t show a student they need to work.”

Board President John R. Boyce said policies are simply meant to guide the superintendent in the day-to-day activities of the district.

“For each policy there is a procedure that defines things. The procedure is what really has the direct impact,” he said.

“I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t buy it,” Ms. Wolpin said.

The board also adopted a revised homework policy of one paragraph that reads:

“Homework is to be defined as ‘work assigned which may be done outside of each teacher’s classroom environment.’ Homework is to consist primarily of formative assignments (i.e. quizzes, practice, initial drafts, or questions that arise from instruction) intended to reinforce knowledge learned in the classroom. Formative assignments are assignments that occur during the learning process and indicate to the teacher what the student knows as well as what material(s) need to be re-taught.”

Gone from the policy are “homework guidelines” that limited how much homework could be assigned cumulatively on a daily basis. For instance, first graders could have a maximum of 10 minutes per school day, while fifth and sixth graders could have a maximum of 45 minutes per school day.

The revised policy also deletes a paragraph that reads, “Homework will not be assigned on Fridays or prior to vacations and/or school holidays. International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses are exempt from the Homework Guidelines due to the voluntary nature of the course.

“I have no qualms with the homework policy,” Ms. Wolpin said.

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