Getting grades up
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Middle School Principal Willis Perry helped to revive a student retention policy that was not being enforced. Eighth- and ninth-graders who fail two English Language Arts, math, science or social studies classes are required to attend summer school. Having to repeat the year is considered on a case-by-case basis.
Perry recounted asking one student how he was doing, and the student replied, “OK. I’m only failing four classes” — which for that student was better than the previous school year, Perry said. “If we don’t put something in place, it will be a continuing pattern when they get to high school,” he said, adding that some students think that something magical happens when they get to high school that will make them successful. The two-failures policy will also be implemented for fourth- and fifth-graders this coming school year. According to Superintendent Gary Schall the policy is targeting the transition grades from elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school.
Through state and federal grants, the district has also implemented an academic recovery program, in which students can take online courses to make up for classes they fail. A $265,000 State Education Department grant is paying for summer school this year that is being attended by 300 students, according to Schall.
Some of those who are attending summer school do well enough to earn grades in the 80s, but are not earning Regents diplomas with distinction. Only 30.5 percent of the 2012 seniors earned that honor, compared with 59.5 percent in Hewlett-Woodmere.
Those students will be pushed toward a more intensive “college-ready” track, which aligns with the implementation of the Common Core Standards, according to Dr. Ann Pedersen, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and the principal of the Number Two School. The Common Core Standards are a set of educational requirements agreed on by the State Education Department that students must attain.