By CRAIG FREILICH
POTSDAM -- As athletes begin their training for a new season of sports, Potsdam Central School is preparing to implement a controversial homework policy.
School Superintendent Pat Brady says that for him, athletes practicing on the fields means school is about to open.
“Athletics has started up. That’s the first sign of the school year and coming back together,” Brady says.
Brady says that forums held last school year to explain the controversial policy and training of teachers in the policy will ease the district into the new plan, which Brady says will be a better indicator of achievement.
“It has taken some effort over this past year to explain the policy and its purpose,” Brady says. “It is a different style of grading than what we are used to,” Brady says.
The new policy will limit to 10 percent the portion of a student’s overall grade based on homework. The minimum grade for incomplete homework will be 50 instead of zero. The controversy centered on whether or not the policy would result in better-educated students.
“Students’ grades will better reflect achievement – what they know and what they can do,” Brady says.
He also says report cards will now have what Brady calls “indicators of effort” – three columns, for effort, participation, and attitude, on a four-point scale, along with an explanation of what the scores mean.
“We feel it will better prepare the students as we raise the standard, and give them a more accurate reflection of their achievement, but it will take some time for everyone to accustomed to it.”
As achievement standards are raised by the state on English and math scores for grades 3 through 8, “there will be more students who will need extra assistance to meet the standard, so we will be providing that support.”
Meanwhile schools wait for the governor to sign a bully prevention measure approved by the state legislature.
Once the schools receive direction from state education officials on implementing the law, “we’ll provide training for staff, and assemblies for students. That will be a major focus this year,” Brady says.
Enrollment has been fairly steady at Potsdam schools over the last decade, Brady says. The total this year stands at 1,451 compared with other years where it “has varied in the low- to mid-1400 range, sometimes a little higher,” for the last 10 years or so.
The school’s building program over the last couple of years is complete, save for a few final “punch-list” items, but there is a new concession stand on the athletic fields that came together through community effort, Brady says. He says the Booster Club, volunteers and donors combined to build it. “We are very appreciative of everyone’s effort, especially the generosity of the Booster Club.”