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Controversy at HVRHS

High school is a time when students become familiar with a wide range of subjects, through a more varied curriculum than perhaps at any other time in their lives. After all, even if they go on to higher education, they choose more focused study, having learned already what has captured their intellectual interest. Or, if they go on to the military or a job, they need to learn a narrower set of skills in order to succeed. So high school gives them the opportunity to learn about many things, excel in some and maybe not in others, and find their next steps in life as a result of that experience.

This all makes for a complicated and difficult task for the educators who decide what the best approach is to structuring the day for their students. The change at Housatonic Valley Regional High School this school year to an open grading system and longer class and study periods is one that’s been met with controversy and trepidation. Many think the school administrators implemented the new program too quickly, without sufficient preparation and transparency. 

Now, with a number of students, still being defined by the administration, with one or more NYPs, that is, Not Yet Proficients, in the first quarter of this school year, there has been an upsurge of frustration. (See Lakeville Journal articles by Patrick L. Sullivan and Cynthia Hochswender this week and last.) NYPs are comparable to Ds and Fs in the previous grading system. What has angered many now is the fact that this could lead to students being prevented from taking part in extracurricular activities, including athletics. 

Yet the same outcome of restriction of activities would have applied with the old grading system. Still, during this first year of the new system, it’s important that students and parents, as well as teachers and administrators, communicate about the issues that have arisen so far, clarify their goals and come up with mutually agreed-upon solutions. Reliable data on number of students affected would help that process immensely.

There are, of course, other things to learn during high school besides academics, and this controversy has offered HVRHS students that chance. They are learning about their First Amendment rights, for instance, in speaking out about their problems with the  grading system, and protesting on the front lawn of the school last week. Principal Jose Martinez and Assistant Principal Ian Strever responded by listening thoughtfully to the students’ and parents’ concerns and supporting the peaceful protest. 

Where does this go next, however? Much of the hostility over dissatisfaction with the new system at the high school has focused on Superintendent Pamela Vogel, who proposed it and pushed to begin it for this school year. Now is the time to hear from all involved, those who have had both good and bad reactions to the new grading and classroom system, so from students and parents, administrators and faculty. 

This newspaper offers its pages, as always, both in print and online, for any who would like to express their opinions on the situation. It’s critical for the good of the students, whose well-being should be the top priority for all, that the adults in their lives come together to listen to their concerns, express their own, and find ways to come to a resolution. 

Another thing the students have surely learned from this experience at their high school is that sometimes it is important to push back on authority in their lives. This is a moment when honing critical thinking is of great use, and figuring out how to do that during their teenage years can only prepare them better for such challenges throughout their lives.

What else have they learned, and what would they, the students, like to see happen? We would like to hear directly from them and all who care to share their thoughts. Send opinions to publisher@lakevillejournal.com, subject line: Housy opinion.