The Duanesburg school board’s attempt to sanitize the mess it made by scrapping a college-level organic chemistry class in the middle of the year, and changing high school students’ letter grades to pass-fail, reminds us of the consent decrees that businesses often sign to settle allegations of wrongdoing (e.g. “We didn’t do it, but we promise never to do it again”).
The school board is considering a formal policy that would require not just the high school academic department and principal, but the superintendent, to endorse any curriculum changes before seeking the board’s approval. The implication is that if such a policy were in effect last year, it would have kept the district from offering a course that students couldn’t handle.
Maybe so, but that wasn’t really the problem: All nine students in the organic chem class were handling it with aplomb. According to an instructor, no one was getting below a C when one or more parents reportedly complained, pressuring the board to cancel the class. Then, rather than give them the letter grades they had earned to that point, the board switched them to pass-fail — something parents had been told at the beginning of the year wouldn’t happen even if they begged (they had to sign something acknowledging acceptance of the policy).
The notion that this class was “too difficult” for high school students, as Superintendent Christine Crowley asserted last month, is bunk. Duanesburg parents still deserve a meaningful explanation for what happened, and the school board shouldn’t try to obfuscate matters by adopting policies that don’t address what did happen.