Organic chemistry has sabotaged the plans of many a pre-med college student, so it’s hardly surprising that the handful of Duanesburg’s top high school students who’ve been offered the course the last couple of years have found it difficult. But the ones this year had nothing to be ashamed of, since they’d all received passing grades — albeit not the high ones they were accustomed to — and most of them were reportedly content to soldier on.
But without explanation, the school board decided a few weeks ago to cancel the class, and changed retroactively the numerical grades the students had received for their first semester’s work to pass-fail. Both decisions lacked justification.
As one of the students said in a March 18 Gazette story, they knew the class would be difficult when they enrolled but they embraced the challenge. Besides, the district didn’t offer any Advanced Placement science courses for its high-achieving students, and this was as close as they could get.
At the beginning of the year, their parents were also required to sign a form, saying the course would not be graded on a pass-fail basis. But when district officials inexplicably decided to cancel the class late last month (all Superintendent Christine Crowley would say was that the course is too advanced for high school students) that’s what they did. And they sent modified transcripts to any colleges the students had applied to.
Canceling the class is unfair to kids with an expressed desire for knowledge, not to mention an academic challenge. The switch to pass-fail for the first semester is also unfair to kids who were told they could only receive a numerical grade, and who may have taken the course to improve their class standing, qualifying them for scholarships and/or favorable treatment from prospective colleges. Changing the rules after the policy was established seems unethical and raises the question of favoritism for one or more students.
Is it any wonder the parents of some of the affected kids have filed a complaint with the state Education Department? We hope there’s a prompt investigation and that State Ed. not only chastises the district for dumbing down its curriculum but clarifies for the public what the school district wouldn’t.