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Decision No. 14,519

Appeal of MARJORIE DEBOTISS, on behalf of NATHAN DEBOTISS, from action of the Board of Education of the Cato-Meridian Central School District regarding student grading.

Decision No. 14,519

(December 21, 2000)

Gerard D. Serlin, Esq., attorney for petitioner

Matthew R. Fletcher, Esq., attorney for respondent

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the assignment of a failing grade in English 11 to her son, Nathan, during the 1999-2000 school year. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner’s son first enrolled in English 11 during the 1998-1999 school year, but was denied credit for failure to comply with respondent’s class attendance policy. Nathan subsequently enrolled in English 11 for a second time during the 1999-2000 school year. On or about January 26, 2000, Nathan successfully passed the Regents Comprehensive Examination in English with a score of 87. Upon passing that examination, Nathan could have remained in the English 11 class for the remainder of the school year, and, according to respondent’s answer, would have automatically passed the course. Instead, Nathan elected to undertake the "English 11 Challenge Project", an independent study program, for the remainder of the school year.

While the parties disagree somewhat on the facts, it appears that the English 11 Challenge Project consisted of four assignments due on March 15, April 1, May 1, and June 1, followed by a final written examination.

At the time the first assignment became due, Nathan was hospitalized, and did not return to school until March 22. He submitted one part of this two-part assignment on or about March 30 to the school’s guidance department. On March 31, he submitted what respondent characterizes as an incomplete assignment for the second project. On May 1, Nathan submitted a complete assignment for the third project due. When the fourth assignment became due on June 1, Nathan was suspended from school, and did not return until June 2. On June 2 he submitted the fourth assignment.

It appears that, for some reason not explained in the record, the materials Nathan submitted to the guidance department were held there until June 2, when they were transferred from the guidance department to Nathan’s English teacher. It further appears that Nathan’s English teacher did not grade the submitted assignments until July. In the meantime, following another period of suspension in mid-June, Nathan completed the last part of the English 11 Challenge Project, i.e., the final written examination. The final written exam consisted of a portion of the June 15, 2000, Regents Comprehensive Examination in English, and was administered sometime between June 15 and June 23.

Nathan’s English teacher evaluated Nathan’s submissions and the final examination and assigned grades on July 18, 2000. She assigned project grades of 0, 45, 78, and 0 for materials submitted, and a 64 for the final written examination, giving Nathan a failing average of 37 for the Challenge Project. Petitioner learned of this failing grade and denial of credit on August 10, and this appeal was commenced on September 8.

After the commencement of the appeal, and prior to service of respondent’s answer on October 13, respondent had Nathan’s final examination independently re-scored by two English teachers in neighboring school districts. Because only portions of the Regents Comprehensive Examination in English were used, scoring was somewhat inexact, but one teacher scored the final examination as a 64, and the other as a 69.

Respondent’s answer contains a very detailed analysis of the grades assigned and concedes certain adjustments to the grades originally assigned which benefit the student. With respect to the first assignment, originally graded as 0 because it was submitted late, respondent concedes that if that portion of the assignment that Nathan actually completed were given full credit, it would have changed his grade on that project from 0 to 20. With respect to the fourth assignment, which was graded as 0 because it was submitted late, it appears that when Nathan’s English teacher assigned that grade she was not aware that Nathan was suspended from school on the due date. That assignment has now been re-graded, without penalty for lateness, and assigned a grade of 62 rather than 0. Respondent is further willing to concede the higher grade of 69 for the final examination, rather than a 64. As a result, Nathan’s adjusted grades, using scores of 20, 45, 78, and 62 for the four assignments, and 69 on the final examination, would yield a score of 55, rather than the original 37. However, the adjusted grade of 55 is still ten (10) points below passing, and still results in a failure in the course.

It appears that when this appeal was commenced petitioner was under a misapprehension as to several important facts, most importantly the belief that the final examination given to Nathan in June 2000, on which he scored 64, was the same examination that he had passed in January 2000 with a grade of 87. Petitioner has not submitted a reply or any other papers since the service of respondent’s answer containing its detailed analysis of the scoring process, which I find persuasive.

Although I dismiss the appeal, there is one troubling aspect that deserves mention. Petitioner complains that throughout the course of the Challenge Project, her son received no feedback on the work he turned in, no graded papers, no comments, and no evaluations. Respondent admits that the work submitted by Nathan over the course of several months was not even given to Nathan’s teacher until June 2, and not evaluated until July. While it is clearly well within respondent’s authority under Education Law "1709(3) to prescribe the manner in which the Challenge Project is structured, respondent may wish to consider whether or not this current methodology is sufficient to provide appropriate instructional guidance to high school students.