Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

District Addresses Columbia High’s Inconsistent Credit Recovery and Absence Policies

Widespread inconsistencies to Columbia High School’s absence and credit-recovery policies are being addressed by updated policies that include improved communication, the elimination of “NC” (no credit) grades and greater responsibilities assigned to assistant principals, Interim Principal Dr. Kalisha Morgan told the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education on Monday.

Last November, Morgan and Director of Guidance Scott White presented the results of an audit of the high school’s procedures to the board that found a lack of consistency around the issuance of NC grades — meaning that a student has a passing grade but does not get credit for a class due to excessive absences. At that meeting, Morgan reported that 577 students had received NCs in the 2017/2018 school year at CHS, which has approximately 2,000 students.

On Monday, Morgan said there had been a lack of understanding as to who has responsibility for enforcing policies and that students had been essentially sitting in “Saturday detention” without doing the work needed to make up missed course work.

See Dr. Morgan’s presentation attached below.

Download (PDF, 394KB)

To address those issues, CHS has revised its student handbook and assigned specific assistant principals for each grade, tasking administrators with monitoring attendance, and eliminating the ability of teachers to assign a NC grade.

The new procedures also lay out an appeals process, detention for students who cut class, and implements credit recovery for all students who need to make up work, Morgan said.

Administrator responsibilities, according to the presentation, include:

  • Continuously communicate attendance policies to students and parents, update when necessary
  • Monitor student attendance monthly
  • Send letter to families when students meet attendance benchmarks
  • Remove the ability for teachers to assign the NC grade
  • Implement attendance appeal process
  • Implement detention for students who “cut” class
  • Implement credit recovery for all students who exceed absences to “recover” seat time

The presentation also specified parental responsibilities:

  • On November 12, 2018, all parents were sent notification of the updated attendance policies.
  • Students were also notified via their SOMSD email accounts.
  • Parents should monitor student attendance and immediately contact the teacher, guidance counselor, or grade level assistant principal if there are any discrepancies.

Teacher responsibilities were also clarified:

  • Teachers were notified of the updated attendance policies via email.
  • Teachers can now only enter Absent or Tardy. Teachers do not have access to any other codes.
  • Teachers were also notified that attendance must be taken by the end of the period in PowerSchool. In previous years, teachers were told that they can enter attendance by 4:00pm.

Last week, CHS sent 539 letters to parents informing them that students’ absences are approaching a critical level, Morgan said. Letters for credit recovery were sent January 15 to parents of students who exceeded absences for quarter courses, such as health and physical education; letters for semester courses will be sent by February 15.

Students will be able to make appointments to appeal unexcused absences and receive instructions on how to register for credit recovery. Morgan said that students and parents will be able to appeal “NC” grades by providing documentation.

The Attendance Appeal Committee will comprise CHS administrators, the director of guidance, the athletic director and a student assistance counselor.

Separately, interim Superintendent of Administration Gayle Carrick told the board that the final draft of an updated district code of conduct was being reviewed by committee members, and that she hoped to have the process completed by the end of the week. “I think you’ll be pleased with the final product,” she said. “I really do.”

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