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A Housy graduate’s view of the grading controversy

I hear things from current students about how things at Housy (Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village) are going these days, and I have to say that I’m so glad to have graduated before the ongoing controversy there arose. Between student protests, NYPs and an administration that has reportedly banned students from saying “Housy,” it seems like a real mess these days. 

Yes, you read that right. According to students at the school, the Region One administration has apparently decided that students shouldn’t be using the word “Housy” to address our school because students from other Berkshire League schools use it as an insult. Newsflash, Region One: We’ve been using Housy as a shortened version of our school’s ridiculously long name for years. 

That isn’t the issue with Housy I want to discuss, though. No, the issue we need to talk about is NYPs. Housy has implemented a new grading program that, quite frankly, is going to leave its students underprepared for the real world. When I was a student (I graduated in 2016), athletic eligibility was based off of your overall class grade; if you had two Ds or one F as a class average, or a failing GPA, you weren’t eligible for sports. Under the new system, two NYPs take you out of the running. Roughly half of our student athletes, according to the athletic director, have been at risk of losing eligibility due to just two bad grades. 

Not Yet Proficient grades, or NYPs, are being awarded this year in lieu of Ds and Fs. Students with NYPs can resubmit the assignment at any point until the end of the class. If a student has a single NYP grade at the end of the course, they have to take the entire course over. This is wildly different from the grading practices of the past, and the grading practices used at colleges. 

Let me give you an anecdote. I am horrifically bad at permutations, so I had a number of bad grades during a unit of Algebra 2. However, because I’m good at math overall, I still did well in the class despite that week’s worth of D-level grades. I didn’t repeat the class, and I shouldn’t have, because I understood 99 percent of the material. Those few grades weren’t worth the blemish on my transcript, and the school recognized that. 

High school is designed to prepare you for college. Even if not all of its students go on to higher education, the goal is to make them ready to do so. Colleges do not have NYPs, or nonexistent deadlines. If you fail an assignment, you fail an assignment, and you likely won’t have a chance to make it up. If you miss a deadline, then you miss it and there’s nothing you can do (barring extenuating circumstances, of course.) Giving students the ability to make up these bad grades or miss deadlines all over the place doesn’t actually prepare them for anything. Granted, the idea of having to put in the extra work to pass the class is going in the right direction, but I believe this system goes about it all wrong.

It also doesn’t prepare students for the real world outside of school. One bad day or lost sale isn’t going to get you fired from your job, nor are you going to have the opportunity to redo those interactions until they work out well. It merely promotes an unnecessary and unhealthy emphasis on being absolutely perfect. Ultimately, you’re going to have students either giving up completely because they simply don’t understand a concept, or overworking themselves to the point of illness by doing both current and past work. 

In response to this ridiculous new system, students staged a walk-out protest on Feb. 1. The administration warned them that any students who missed an academic class would be given a detention, so they did this during advisory. For those of you who don’t know, advisory is basically a glorified homeroom, and absolutely not an academic class. You don’t get graded, and years’ worth of students in the past have skipped this 10-minute period with no repercussions. However, the administration did give students detention for skipping advisory. 

The administration has refused to act on student and parent concerns with the system, and has reportedly even threatened some teachers with termination to the point that they are afraid to come forward in opposition. This all comes after the disrespect exhibited by the new superintendent while trying to gain support for her new scheduling and structure plan, which she did not achieve.

This new system is not a system that works. It does not prepare Housy students for their futures, whether that means college or not. It is time that the parents and residents of Region One take this issue beyond our community. It seems to me that Pam Vogel and the Board of Education may not care about local outrage, but a larger pushback may finally get them to listen and to make changes. 

 

Ashlee Baldwin is a 2016 graduate of Housatonic Valley Regional High School. She lives in North Canaan, and is a sophomore at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, where she is a political science major and a journalism minor. She is a former Lakeville Journal intern. (This article originally appeared in an online posting for Odyssey at Quinnipiac University. It appears here slightly edited from the original.)