Changes to grading policy advised

GLOVERSVILLE – The city school district’s Grading Policy Committee is recommending changes for the 2013-14 school year.

The committee is recommending the district eliminate final exams in classes that include a regents exam. In these classes, the regents exam would count as the final exam.

The committee also is recommending the district start penalizing students who hand in assignments late.

The committee reviewed the district’s new grading policy, which the school board approved in June 2012.

Committee member Sheila Autilio said the change from letter to numerical grades has worked well, but teachers and students have expressed some concerns about testing.

“We found that the students were very, very frustrated with the amount of exams they needed to take,” Autilio said.

The committee recommends any courses that end with a regents exam have the regents count as the final exam for the course to reduce the number of tests.

Under the current policy, state assessments such as regents exams are not averaged into the final grade, but a final assessment can count as one-fifth of the student’s final grade.

Autilio said although both tests are on the same subject, passing a final school exam can be more difficult. She said regents exams are graded on a scale that can make it easier for students to reach a passing grade.

High School Principal Richard DeMallie said the percentage of students scoring well on regents exams still is too low.

He said 10 regents were offered at the high school this school year and 61 percent of students passed in the three or four range, considered a passing range. The percentage of students who scored in levels one and two, which is considered failing, was about 40 percent.

“We obviously are not satisfied and not happy with those scores,” DeMallie said. “We are not going to hide behind them; we are going to lay them out for you today to let you know what kind of uphill battle we are facing.”

In 2010-11, averages for students in the level three or four range were 68.8 percent, and in 2011-12, the percentage was 70.2 percent. Also in 2010-11, 31 percent of students didn’t pass, and in 2011-12, the average was 30 percent with a failing grade.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Frank Pickus said more students are given the opportunity to sit for the regents exams than in the past, which he said is good, but it also hurts the overall average.

He said as the regents become aligned with new federal and state Common Core standards, the test becomes more difficult.

DeMallie said the district is aiming to improve scores by 8 percent across the board next school year.

Superintendent Michael Vanyo said students in the middle school who take regents classes weren’t included in the average, but they tend to pass the regents with an 85 percent or higher.

The Grading Policy Committee also reviewed the grace period in which students are allowed to complete late assignments.

Autilio said teachers found students would wait a long time before handing in work because they were allowed to turn in the work late and not be penalized.

The committee suggests having assignments lose 5 percent of a grade each day up to 20 percent.

“They have to hand in their work in a timely fashion,” Autilio said.

Vanyo said he would support the recommended changes but would like the school board to consider them until the next board meeting in August.

“We wanted to make sure this wasn’t an administrative decision and wanted to get feedback,” Vanyo said. “As administrators, we feel that the two recommendations [the committee] made are reasonable and we would support that.”

Vice President E. Lynn Brown said she agrees students are overtested and would support the recommended changes.

“If the standard is the regents exam, then that should be able to be the final exam,” Brown said.

Under the policy, grades for each marking period bottom out at 50 percent. If a student earns an average lower than 50, a teacher will indicate the student’s true average in the comment section of the report card.

Vanyo said the committee will recommend more changes as they are needed.

Levi Pascher can be reached by email at [email protected].

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