Change in grading system in Region 1 handled poorly Patricia Allyn Mechare, Falls Village 3

This is in response to the April 15 letter “Disgruntled parents in Region 1 getting too much attention.” It was signed by Pam Vogel and Bob Whelan, superintendent of schools and Board of Education chairman, respectively.

Anyone reading the letter might have assumed other members of the board that governs Housatonic Valley High School sanctioned the publication. There never was any public discussion or action supporting this letter. Speaking for myself as the board’s representative for Falls Village, I knew nothing about this letter until I read it in The Sunday Republican.

For a number of years, I have observed a strained relationship between the “high-school” board and the public. At best, there seemed to be little tolerance for concerns raised during the board’s public-comment period. Further, the board was not particularly good at following through and reporting to the public the steps that were taken regarding questions or concerns raised at previous meetings. A few on the board seemed dismissive of anyone who raised concerns on any topic, especially if they involved Dr. Vogel. People who raised such concerns were referred to as uninformed, and accused of spreading rumors and/or promulgating misinformation – using much of the language that appears in Dr. Vogel’s and Mr. Whelan’s letter. That’s unfortunate.

For months, citizens, including many parents, have expressed concerns about mastery-based grading practices. Listening to Dr. Vogel and Mr. Whelan, you would be left with the impression those expressing concern weren’t supportive of the concept. Nothing could be further from the truth. The concern has centered on the way the initiative was implemented. What the overwhelming worry has been is the apparent lack of properly engaging the stakeholders – the administrators, teachers, students and parents – in the process. There have been legitimate concerns about the adequacy of the training, preparation and comprehensive understanding of the proposed change for the staff, students and parents. There has been a clear miscalculation by the “central office” administration regarding a smooth transition from traditional grading practices to mastery-based grading practices. The process has been further complicated by an unrealistic timeline for implementation.

The focus should be on solving the obvious problem created by a misguided roll-out of what otherwise would likely have been a successful change in the proficiency of learning of our students.

Patricia Allyn Mechare