New Faculty Policies May Not Be Beneficial to Students

Features — By on October 27, 2011 11:07 pm

The many departmental changes occurring at Brooklyn Technical High School may be affecting students just as much as teachers.

            Earlier this year, each department was asked to hold a meeting in which every member would agree on a universal department-wide grading policy. For some departments, such as mathematics, whose policy has been 80% test scores, 20% homework/class participation for several years now, this was very easy. For others, this was not the case. This time around, proposing grade ranges was unacceptable, unlike it has been in the past.

The logic behind the decision to standardize grades is that all teachers in a given subject should weigh your work equally. There has also been a recent citywide push towards more standardized grading, unfortunately causing Tech to move in that direction as well.

This decision also brought on the adoption of Skedula, a new grading system that has been in use since the beginning of this school year. Each department’s universal policy has been embedded into this system, meaning there is little to no flexibility when it comes to report card grades. However, many are not happy with the way it has been working.

Prior to Skedula, there has been no online grading system required of all teachers to use. Daedalus is still up and running; its primary function, however, is to deliver final grades to students, rather than provide a detailed class performance for each class.

In this first marking period of usage, Skedula has proven to be no less glitchy than Daedalus. Students have had trouble logging into the system, even after receiving confirmation emails that their usernames and passwords were correct. Teachers who entered grades would find them missing the next day. Some find it hard to adapt their own personal grading policy to the new universal ones, towards which Skedula seems unforgiving.

While Skedula has been described as “not user-friendly,” some concede that with time, it gets easier to operate. Some of the above-stated issues have in fact been solved: students should log in on pupilpath.skedula.com/, rather than skedula.com, and teachers should not enter grades with a weak Internet connection.

Skedula was also adopted to bridge the communication gap between teachers and parents. Rather than waiting for report cards and parent-teacher conferences, parents can now track their child’s up-to-date progress online.

However, as was the case with Daedalus and ARIS, many parents do not check Skedula regularly, and even more do not even know of its existence. Many argue that this makes the whole system counterintuitive. Others believe that its target audience is not the parents but the students, the ones whom the grades actually affect.

Many students are uncomfortable with the personal information available to their teachers, and the sheer quantity of it. Not only embarrassing ID photos, but entire transcripts are available on student profiles, as well as scores from standardized tests in third grade that no one remembers taking. Teachers, while also generally uncomfortable with access to this information, do sometimes find it helpful, and claim that this same information is available on many other websites as well.

Another irksome change for teachers is a new tutoring schedule: certain departments are only allowed to offer after-school tutoring for students on certain days. The days they are not offering tutoring, they are to attend department-wide meetings. This schedule has not been implemented yet and no meetings have occurred; however, meetings will be focused on teacher development.

Declining trends in education have prompted a change in qualifications for teachers. Teachers who received a teaching license in the past were able to keep it for life; now, a teacher must renew his or her license every five years, calling for a few hundred hours of teacher development meetings for renewal.

While in the past, students would get days off of school for professional development days, meetings during school days are now seen as more fit to meet requirements. Meetings are not only after school either; many are during class periods. This marking period, some teachers have had to miss class once a week to attend professional development meetings, or something of the like. Students lose valuable class time and may fall behind in the curriculum because of this.

The new tutoring schedule is problematic because most teachers were previously available for tutoring every day after school, and now they will only be available for two days. The schedule effectively reduces the availability of tutoring by half.

Sweeping changes such as these are made by Tech’s administration, but affect everyone – teachers, parents, and students alike. Hopefully we will get familiar with these new policies, and no more drastic changes will be made any time soon.