Strongsville teachers strike continues on Day 17

6:43 PM, Mar 20, 2013   |    comments
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STRONGSVILLE -- It has been 17 days since Strongsville teachers went on strike. Discussions with a federal mediator have been underway but an agreement has not yet been reached.

Many have said that this strike has divided the community. When an agreement might be reached is still not known.

Strongsville's mayor has called on both sides involved in the on-going teachers strike to meet at his office at 10 a.m. Friday and try to reach an agreement.

Mayor Tom Perciak joined us live to talk about the strike.

The Strongsville Education Association released a statement Wednesday afternoon:

As students prepare to receive their first report cards since the teacher strike began almost three weeks ago, the Strongsville City School district appears to be violating its own board policies regarding academic integrity and grading procedures. According to the school calendar, Friday, March 22 marks the end of the third grading period, but inconsistent grading procedures have some questioning the validity and long term impact of grades that are not issued by highly-qualified classroom teachers.

Despite Board President David Frazee's claim that "It's kind of business as usual; we're not changing any policies" on March 3, an email from Center principal Jennifer Pelko to parents on March 19 indicates that schools will not be following the longstanding, board-approved policies on grading when issuing third quarter grades. "I do have some guidance on grades," Pelko wrote. "It will not be perfect."

Board policy states that procedures for grading must include "clear, consistent criteria and standards, particularly when grades are based on subjective assessment," but the practice Center Middle School will follow is anything but consistent. "There will be some things (activities, quizzes, tests) that will be taken for the points that were earned. However, I will be reviewing everything very carefully to determine what I am counting and what I am not," Pelko wrote. "I will do my best to make sure that the points given reflect learning."

It is not common practice for principals to review the individual grades of students, but Pelko confirmed that she will give completion grades for most work, may exempt tests where the scores were low, and will allow absent students to be exempt from missing work against the district's own absence policy. Pelko also admitted that inconsistencies in points will exist in some courses due to the length of time that the substitute was assigned to the room.

Grades for non-core classes like art, gym, and music will remain what they were before the strike, a seeming admission that no instruction has taken place in those courses. The inconsistency of grading policies and the filtering out of assignments that do not "reflect learning" indicate that the substitutes in the classroom are not qualified to appropriately assess students and to issue grades.

Perhaps this is why the district seems to be operating with little regard for the statement by the Board on their own website that "grades given by licensed substitute teachers will count toward graduation." "Either the Board makes up the truth as they go along, or they are admitting that the replacements in the classrooms are not truly qualified to teach," SEA President Tracy Linscott said.

The danger of these inconsistencies is that children may slip through the cracks or have their academic records negatively impacted. "If the district is making a practice of ignoring some assessments or just giving completion grades, it might miss the signs that a student needs intervention or help. This is especially concerning given next year's Third Grade Reading Guarantee," Linscott said.

State law and board policy require schools to identify struggling readers at the end of first and second grade and provide intervention services to any student reading below grade level. Students who are reading below grade level at the end of third grade cannot be promoted to fourth grade. The concern is that replacement teachers will not be able to identify students who are reading below grade level this spring, which has serious consequences for next school year.

Students at the high school, especially those who take courses that are not currently being offered, like honors, AP, and foreign language classes, may question how their permanent record will be impacted by inconsistent grading policies. "If I were a high school student, I would wonder how the school is planning to guarantee a fair assessment of my grades and my class rank. After all, these two things are important factors when applying to college and for scholarships," Linscott said.

Complicating the matter is the lockout of teachers from their electronic grade books by the Board two days before the strike vote. This lockout prevented many teachers from updating and entering grades as they had planned, causing many of the pre-strike grades to be incomplete and inaccurate. "It is unfortunate that our students continue to pay the price for the Board's ill-conceived and politically-motivated actions. And just like the Board, our students' grades won't tell the full story. You can't trust the kids' report cards, and you can't trust the Board," Linscott said.


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