It’s nice to see that Duanesburg High School’s erstwhile organic chemistry students haven’t given up trying to get administrators to live up to their commitment to give them letter grades for a class that was mysteriously canceled on them in February — with their letter grades switched to pass-fail despite the fact that everyone was earning at least a “C.” There’s something rotten in Duanesburg, and administrators have been hiding behind a fig leaf of confidentiality to avoid explaining their baffling decision.
The kids deserve the letter grades they were promised — the letter grades their parents had to sign a pledge to accept at the beginning of the school year: no switching to pass-fail in mid-stream like last year, everyone was warned. And the kids weren’t doing badly, according to a professional chemist who volunteered as an assistant to the teacher — maybe not as well as they did in their regular courses, but this was, after all, college-level organic chem.
In lowering the boom, Superintendent Christine Crowley would only say that the course was “too advanced” for high school students. But under the circumstances that have been made public, that explanation fails to hold water.
Does it even matter at this stage, now that the kids have gotten their college acceptance letters? It does for a couple of reasons. One is principle: These kids, and their parents, deserve a better explanation. Two is precedent: This is no way to run a school district, and if something like this is allowed to stand, it doesn’t bode well for the future. Three, and perhaps most importantly from the kids’ perspective, is that pass-fail grades affect their class standing in a way that could hurt them financially in a big way. Some schools offer scholarships that are determined by rank, so whether a kid is second or third could affect whether they qualify for a large amount of financial assistance in college.
Given that situation, it would not be surprising to see a lawsuit or two arise from this decision, and that means taxpayers would be affected. In March, parents filed a grade-tampering complaint with the state Education Department. One can only hope it will move quickly on it to keep the outcome of the dispute from becoming moot.