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Decision No. 16,006

Appeal of ANNEMARIE CARANGELO, on behalf of her son DAVON, from action of the Board of Education of the Rocky Point Union Free School District regarding a class grading policy.

Decision No. 16,006

(January 8, 2010)

Hamburger, Maxson, Yaffe, Wishod & Knauer, LLP, attorneys for respondent, David H. Pearl, Esq., of counsel

STEINER, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the Rocky Point Union Free School District ("respondent") regarding a math grade for her son, Davon.  The appeal must be dismissed. 

During the 2007-2008 school year, Davon was a ninth grade student in respondent’s high school.  Pursuant to the grading policy of his math teacher, homework comprised 20% of his quarterly grade and included obtaining parental signatures on tests, quizzes and progress reports.  When a student did not obtain a parental signature, the student’s grade on that homework assignment was decreased from 100 by 10 points for each day that the signature was late, down to a grade of zero.  In the first quarter, Davon was required as homework to obtain parental signatures on 12 assignments for which he failed to return six.  As such, the homework portion of his quarterly grade included six zeros, resulting in a grade of 85%.

Petitioner opposed the grading policy, stating she was not made aware of Davon’s failure to obtain parental signatures in a timely fashion and that family circumstances made obtaining her signature difficult.  In response, respondent’s superintendent eliminated all of Davon’s homework grades resulting from a parental signature, ensuring that only academic performance was used to compute the quarterly grade.   This resulted in a change in Davon’s quarterly grade from 85% to 87%.  Petitioner requested that assignments be included where her son did obtain the parental signature, thereby only eliminating those where a signature was not obtained.  According to petitioner, this would raise Davon’s quarterly grade to 90%.

Petitioner appealed the superintendent’s decision to respondent, which upheld the superintendent’s determination.  This appeal ensued.

Petitioner argues that academic sanctions for nonacademic reasons are unlawful and requests that Davon’s grade be recalculated.  Respondent claims that petitioner’s appeal should be dismissed for improper service and lack of verification, as well as on the merits, since a school district’s grading policy is within the discretion of the classroom teacher and the board of education. 

Respondent asserts that the petition is not properly verified as required by §275.5 of the Commissioner’s regulations.  However, the petition submitted to my Office of Counsel contained the required verification.  Although petitioner should have included a copy of the verification with the papers served on respondent, I will excuse this omission because petitioner is not represented by counsel and my Office of Counsel received a verified petition (Appeal of M.M., 42 Ed Dept Rep 323, Decision No. 14,870).

The appeal, however, must be dismissed because of improper service.  Section 275.8(a) of the Commissioner’s regulations requires that a petitioner be served by someone who is over 18 years of age and not a party to the appeal.  Petitioner admits that she improperly served the petition and notice of petition by delivering them herself to an employee of respondent.

Even if the appeal were not dismissed on procedural grounds, it would be dismissed on the merits.  Decisions regarding student grading rest initially with the classroom teacher and ultimately with the board of education (see Education Law §1709[3]; Appeal of Shaver, 38 Ed Dept Rep 570, Decision No. 14,096; Appeal of Krom, 37 id. 459, Decision No. 13,905).  When a student challenges a final grade, he or she bears the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested (Appeal of Shaver, 38 Ed Dept Rep 570, Decision No. 14,096; Appeal of Krom, 37 id. 459, Decision No. 13,905; Appeal of Marcia E., 35 id. 331, Decision No. 13,560).  Barring a showing that a grade determination was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, it will not be set aside (Appeal of Shaver, 38 Ed Dept Rep 570, Decision No. 14,096; Appeal of Krom, 37 id. 459, Decision No. 13,905; Appeal of Baker-Stein, 37 id. 401, Decision No. 13,889). 

The teacher’s grading policy, which stated that homework may include parental signatures, was distributed to all students and parents at the beginning of the school year and both petitioner and Davon signed and returned a copy.  In a meeting with the superintendent, petitioner explained that she was not able to sign Davon’s homework because she was away from home for a period of time to care for a sick relative.  In response to petitioner’s concerns, the superintendent removed both the positive and negative homework grades petitioner’s son received as a result of the parental signature policy.  Respondent indicates that due to rounding, Davon’s final grade for the course would remain the same with or without including the positive homework grades for obtaining a parental signature.  On this record, I find that respondent did not act in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner.