All Students To Receive Behavior Grades

On March 4, the faculty voted 119 to 24 in favor of a new trial system to incorporate behavior evaluations into instructor comments. Starting in Fall Term of 2013, the school will report midterm and term grades on Parent Portal and PAnet. The report will require teachers to assess all students’ attitude, effort and performance with check-boxes and comments, according to John Rogers, Dean of Studies. Parents, students and faculty members will all be able to view the report. Rogers and the faculty hope the trial system will give all students more thorough feedback via the check-box system and allow for open communication between students and faculty. Under the current system, behavioral midterm comments are optional and are only sent out to students that require extra concern or receive a “failure” or “danger of failure” grade at midterm. Students who get behavior grades receive only “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” on their report cards, which is unspecific, according to Rogers. The system will serve as a trial. Although the faculty initially wanted to test on a subset of students, they determined that testing the system with all students would be the most accurate way to determine effectiveness. If the program turns out to be unconstructive for students, another change may occur, said Rogers. According to Rogers, behavior grades have been used rarely and arbitrarily in the past. “It seemed better to get all faculty to comment positively, negatively or otherwise on every student’s behavior and effort,” said Rogers. “This is part of a broader effort to how we respond to kids and support kids. Every once in awhile, there is a situation where it would be really good to have more information earlier on a particular kid so we can do something at the midterm,” said Rogers. “[The new system] will hopefully allow us to intervene more quickly and more directly to help out a student that is struggling,” said Patrick Farrell, Chair of the Math Department and member of the multiple committees involved in the original proposal and implementation of the new system. “I think it’s providing information more comprehensively about every student. When a student has an advisor or coach that is working with that student in one area, they will know if the student is having trouble in other areas more easily,” said Rogers. The Student Alert System will also be modified with this new program. Also known as the “red flag” system, the Student Alert System allows teachers to “flag” students with serious concerns, regarding attendance, performance or well-being. After advisors are alerted using the Student Alert System, they can choose whether or not to notify each of the student’s instructors for updates and support. The new system focuses on specific academic patterns across the board, thus allowing issues to be addressed more quickly, according to Rogers. The space for comments allows both students and faculty alike to recognize problematic patterns and the need for improvement. When the faculty voted, Rogers said that the 24 who opposed the change valued the poignant message that the current system of behavior grades provides. Receiving an optional “unsatisfactory” grade is a message that clearly states that a student did not do what they were supposed to do. Brainstorming for the program initially started in the Access to Success Working Group, chaired by Linda Carter Griffith, Dean of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) and David Fox, Instructor in English. The discussion then continued in the Academic Council before being finalized by a small subgroup of Academic Council and Access to Success. Andover’s Technology Department is currently in the process of designing the new online system from scratch, said Rogers. This system is similar to the method already used by Summer Session, said Farrell. Fernando Alonso, Director of Summer Session, implemented a checkbox system that was received well by faculty. Farrell said that several people felt that the system that Fernando devised would work well during the school year as well.