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Asbury Park Lowers 64 Floor: Inside Info on New Grading Rules, Student Suspensions, and Special Education

NJ Education Report has received a trove of new information from Asbury Park, courtesy of inside sources who will remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation. The information relates to three areas, all dealing with Asbury Park High School (now grades 7-12 after district enrollment dropped to 1,358 students). Last week principal Bridgett O’Neill issued new instructions to staff members that bar teachers from giving students failing grades; report changes to programming for students with disabilities; and issue directives regarding school uniforms.

In Extension of the 64 Floor, Teachers Are Barred From Entering Accurate Grades

In last week’s staff newsletter O’Neill explained new processes for entering end-of-marking-period grades for students who either have failed assignments/tests or chronically cut class. Here are some of the rules:

  • “No teacher is to assign an “INC” (incomplete) without prior approval from the student’s school counselor. Tomorrow, we will share out a Google Form for this purpose.”
  • “Please DO NOT manually adjust grades for loss of credit due to attendance or cutting. We will be doing this on the back end automatically through Genesis. Additionally, if a student receives credit back due to an attendance appeal, we will notify you.”
  • “If a student has failed your class for the marking period, please ensure that your contact notes are accurately updated in the “Notes” section of Genesis. School counselors will be reaching out to you during the week of 11/21 for more information. You will be required to hold a conference with that student’s family during parent-teacher conferences.”
  • “If a student has lost credit due to attendance, we will be developing individual credit recovery plans. We will share more information about this soon, but please keep in mind that NO NEW INSTANCES OF BUYBACK are being added.”

In other words, teachers can’t independently make judgements about student grades if this would result in an “F.” It doesn’t matter how often the student missed class because that student is eligible for “credit recovery” and “buyback.” Also, you first have to have a conference with the student’s parents.  I don’t know the details of the “credit recovery” and “buyback” but in the past students could earn credit by attending an elementary school field day or volunteering for a non-academic task.  (Or by being a football player.)

According to the state database, one out of six Asbury Park High School students reach proficiency in reading and math; 60% of students are chronically absent.  Average SAT scores are 395 in reading (college-readiness cut-off is 480) and average SAT score in math is 387 (college-readiness cut-off is 530).

Special Education Students Deprived of Services

In a note to staff members dated last Friday, O’Neill advises that some In-Class Resources (ICR) “have been dissolved.”  Typically ICR are provided in inclusion classes where a general education teacher and a special education teacher jointly teach the class.

 

It’s not entirely clear why services mandated by students’ Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) were “dissolved.” Although I believe this was a one-day event, it’s still a violation of state and federal law. It’s possible that teachers were  pulled away from their regular duties due to O’Neill’s fixation on student compliance with the new rules about school uniforms. See:

Fixation on School Uniforms

Beginning this school year Superintendent Rashawn Adams announced a strict school uniform policy. Previously uniforms were voluntary.  At Asbury Park High School younger students must wear white polo shirts with khaki pants and older students must wear blue polos with khaki pants. This has proven a hard hill to climb but Principal McNeill is willing to die on it.

According to her instructions, any student who arrives for school improperly attired gets mandatory detention (ISS or “In-School-Suspension”), 7-8th graders in the library and 9-12th graders in the auditorium. They must stay there “until they either borrow uniform items or a parent/guardian brings them uniform clothing.” (This is why some speculate two special education teachers and a math teacher were supervising these students instead of teaching in their classroom.) Detention goes from 7:40 to 8:30, at which time they are released, whether or not their parents/guardians bring them uniforms or they “borrow” one. (Huh?) This means these students have missed homeroom, breakfast, and the first 30 minutes of Block 1. This happened every day last week even though uniform compliance doesn’t budge. (O’Neill in another note to staff: “The process [last week] was not seamless.”)

According to the uniform policy, the district is supposed to offer “limited financial assistance on a first come, first served basis toward the purchase of three complete uniforms.” However, sources say there are some displaced students living in hotels and shelters who didn’t receive uniforms and they are not coming to school because they know they will have In-School-Suspensions.

And so it goes in Asbury Park.

School Board bonus: here is a screenshot of a parody ad that made the rounds during school board elections. Barbara Lesinski won another term.

 

 

Laura Waters

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