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Decision No. 14,658

Appeal of M.D. and I.D., on behalf of their daughter M.R.D., from action of the Board of Education of the Chazy Union Free School District regarding a grading policy.

Decision No. 14,658

(December 5, 2001)

Harris Beach LLP, attorneys for respondent, Jacqueline M. Kelleher, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the decision of the Board of Education of the Chazy Union Free School District ("respondent") to assign their daughter an "incomplete" as a final exam grade for an advanced placement ("AP") calculus course. The appeal must be sustained.

During the 2000-01 school year, M.R.D. was enrolled in an AP calculus course in respondent's school district. Although M.R.D. completed the course and received a final passing grade, she opted not to take the AP examination administered by the College Board on May 10, 2001. By letter dated May 25, 2001, Gerald L. Blair, respondent's Superintendent of Schools, notified petitioners that respondent determined at its May 15, 2001 meeting that students enrolled in an AP course who did not take the AP examination would receive an "incomplete" ("INC") on their permanent record. This appeal ensued.

Petitioners contend that they were not informed prior to May 25, 2001 that a student taking an AP course would be required to take the AP examination to receive a "complete" in the course. Petitioners point out that respondent did not establish its policy regarding the AP examination until five days after the AP calculus test was administered. In support of their assertions, petitioners submit a copy of respondent's general grading policy, which does not include any information pertaining to AP examinations or to the circumstances under which a student might receive an incomplete on his or her permanent record. Petitioners also supply information about the AP program from the College Board"s website, which explains that a student receiving a qualifying grade on an AP examination may be eligible for advanced placement or course credit at many colleges and universities, but does not advise that the examination is mandatory for those enrolled in an AP course. Petitioners further contend that respondent's "policy" regarding the AP exam violates their daughter's right to a free and appropriate education as guaranteed under the Education Law because there is a $77 registration fee for the AP calculus examination. For relief, petitioners request an order requiring respondent to remove the incomplete from their daughter's permanent record and directing respondent to establish a grading policy specifically addressed to AP courses.

Respondent explains that petitioners' daughter did not receive an incomplete in the calculus course, but, in fact, was awarded a final grade of "B minus" on her permanent record based solely upon classroom performance. Respondent asserts, however, that petitioners' daughter will be assigned an "incomplete" for the final exam in accordance with its May 15, 2001 resolution. Respondent also submits an affidavit from Diane Coupal, the Math Department Chairperson for respondent's district, which explains that AP calculus students were "highly encouraged" to take the AP exam and were told that "the exam would act as a final exam."

The appeal must be sustained. Although grading policies and practices are matters in which local school authorities have considerable discretion, the application of such policies and practices will be set aside where it is arbitrary or unreasonable (Education Law "1709[3]; Appeal of R.W., 40 Ed Dept Rep , Decision No. 14,580; Appeal of Mulder, 35 id. 340, Decision No. 13,563; Appeal of Goloski, 34 id. 565, Decision No. 13,410). I find that respondent"s award of an "incomplete", under the circumstances of this case, is unreasonable and must be reversed.

According to respondent"s Math Department Chairperson, AP mathematics students were "highly encouraged" but apparently not required to take the AP examination. The copy of respondent"s general grading policy made part of the record does not include any reference to circumstances under which a student would receive an incomplete on his or her permanent record. Aside from Ms. Coupal"s general assertion that its policy of assigning an incomplete to students who declined to take the exam was "explained to students and parents," there is no proof that respondent had, in fact, established such a policy before May 15, 2001, or apprised parents and students of it prior to exams. Under these facts, I find that respondent acted arbitrarily by assigning petitioners" daughter an incomplete for her calculus final exam because she opted not to take the AP examination. The record establishes that respondent attempted to belatedly adopt a policy on May 15, 2001, which was obviously insufficient to apprise petitioners of the consequence of their daughter"s decision not to take an examination administered on May 10, 2001. Moreover, it is unfair for respondent to apply its May 15 policy to effect a new requirement which apparently did not exist at the time the exam was offered.

Finally, although I am sustaining the appeal for the reasons discussed, I am compelled to note that I have serious concerns about the fairness of the policy enacted by respondent at its May 15, 2001 meeting. Even if students and parents were apprised of respondent"s policy at the beginning of the school year, I question the fairness of assigning an "incomplete" for a final exam grade when a student chooses not to take an AP exam that apparently is optional. Accordingly, I urge respondent to reconsider the policy adopted at its May 15, 2001 meeting.

In light of this disposition, I need not address the parties remaining contentions.


IT IS ORDERED that respondent remove any reference to an incomplete on the calculus final exam on M.R.D."s permanent record.


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