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An almost-snow-day, perfect scores & more grade gripes

Updated: February 16, 2014 6:20AM



ELGIN — School District U46’s two-week break stretched into two weeks and two days, as bitterly cold and snowy weather caused district officials to cancel a teacher professional-development day planned for Monday, Jan. 6, and then also to cancel the next day — the first day that students were supposed to be back in class.

Students and staff members almost got a third “snow day” last Wednesday, Superintendent Jose Torres revealed during Monday night’s board of education meeting.

Torres said that on Jan. 7, he told Chief Operating Officer Jeff King that “if we did not have 90 percent of our buses operating, we would not open school on Wednesday.” And by that Tuesday evening, mechanics at the U46 bus garage could get only 60 percent of the vehicles running, Torres said.

But Torres said five staffers worked all night in the subzero temperatures to get enough buses going by dawn, and the district’s 53 schools did finally reopen Wednesday.

“As you know, I don’t like to close schools anyway, and two days had hurt me enough,” the superintendent told school board members and the audience.

Board Member Frank Napolitano said he noticed that one place where children were supposed to wait for their school bus Wednesday morning was covered with snow and ice, so the students had to stand in the street.

King said the district has more than 1,000 bus stops, so it would be hard to make sure all had been shoveled off or plowed. But in general, the COO said, the district received great cooperation from the public works departments of the city and villages inside the 90-square-mile district.

In other action Monday:

Torres reported that two U46 students received the highest possible score on last year’s ACT college-admissions test.

The board recognized one of them ­ — Grant Weatherton, a senior in the U46 Science, Engineering and Technology Academy at Bartlett High School. Torres said Weatherton is president of the BHS Spanish Club, is in the process of becoming an Eagle Scout, and plans to study actuarial science at either Carroll College, the University of Illinois or the University of Evansville.

Torres said the other perfect test-taker is a female student at Elgin High School but that she wishes to remain anonymous. Torres joked that he will sneak over to some secluded corner of Elgin High to meet with the girl and give her a similar recognition plaque.

Nationwide, only one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACT score a 36.

During the “public comments” section of the meeting, a South Elgin High School sophomore and his mother both criticized the district’s new grading system. Student Ryan Otters said that by not counting homework scores in determining a student’s grade, the system makes it hard to raise the grade if one does badly on a single test, even if he or she dutifully does homework correctly every night.

His mother, Colleen Otters, complained that “it’s not an objective grading scale. It’s basically based on a teacher’s feelings.”

“To get a 5, a student must show ‘exceptional, consistent mastery of the skill.’ If a student is just learning a skill, how can he show mastery of it?” she added.

Several other parents and students also have criticized the new grading system during recent U46 board meetings.



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