U-CF board suggests revision to the discipline reporting policy
● By J. Chambless
By JP Phillips
From November 2017 to April 2018, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District administration and board worked on revising the student discipline policy.
Prompted by an underage drinking incident at a Sept. 8, 2017 football game, the board approved a suspension rescission clause which would allow a first offender to apply and, if approved by the superintendent, have the incident wiped off their student record one time during their high school career. This was done mostly so the suspension would not appear on college applications and potentially derail a student’s acceptance to their dream school. The school policy currently is to report any suspensions when completing college applications.
While rescission currently remains in the Student Code of Conduct, district superintendent John Sanville is recommending a policy of not reporting any disciplinary records to colleges. Assistant superintendent John Nolen said that the question on the common application is, “Has the child been suspended or had any other disciplinary action?” Sanville said that the high school counselors requested the non-report policy change because they did not feel they could truthfully answer the common application question.
“Even though I may rescind a suspension, they [counselors] know that the child was suspended, so they’re left in a little bit of an ethical dilemma as to how they answer that question,” Sanville said. “If we go to a non-report policy, which again is very common nationwide, we take that ethical dilemma away from our counselors.”
Sanville said that half of high schools nationwide have a non-report policy. If approved, the high school will not report whether or not a suspension has occurred, but the question will still be asked of the student in their portion of the college app. The non-report clause will be voted on during September’s board meeting.
“There are two policies that have to be modified before my time is up on the board. This is one of them,” said board member Gregg Lindner, showing his support for the non-report policy change offered by the district. He also wants the board to stop using passing the Keystone exam as a graduation requirement. “It has to stop,” he said. “It’s a terrible policy that we have.” Lindner is not running for re-election this November.
The state mandates Keystone exams, but keeps postponing the date when it will be required for graduation. According to Lindner, UHS is the only high school in the state that has it as a graduation requirement.
Nolen noted that the current freshman class will be required by the state to pass the Keystones. He reminded the board that there are several different pathways available if a student does not pass. Lindner said that those pathways are what he objects to. He does not see the value in making students sit through remedial classes on Keystone subject matter when they have already done well on the SATs and have been accepted into college.
Unionville High School is investigating a “Blended Learning” option to be introduced during the 2020-21 school year. Nolen explained the concept during the Aug. 12 work session.
Currently, a course that meets six times during a six-day cycle does so as a group in a traditional classroom. In contrast, Blended Learning courses would meet on only three of the six days. The other three days would allow for assigned independent work that could include research, reading, online learning, video or review, depending on the curriculum and individual student needs. According to Nolen, Downingtown, Garnet and West Chester school districts already offer Blended Learning classes with success. UHS plans to offer eight to 12 courses at all levels (academic, honors, and advanced placement). World History, AP Spanish, Accounting, and Financial Literacy are some of the topics being considered.
Nolen said that although the curriculum would be the same, having the student do independent work allows for a deeper dive during classroom discussions. Board member Elise Anderson compared a Blending Learning course to how colleges approach education.
“It allows students to take responsibility for their own learning,” she said.
Nolen recognized that Blended Learning courses would not be a good fit for every student, but some may greatly benefit. A $20,000 Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) contract to provide teacher training on Blended Learning was approved at the Aug. 19 board meeting. The 15 teachers and administrators who take part in the CCIU sessions would then become trainers to instruct other UHS teachers.
Sanville said the district is prepared and excited to welcome 4,100 students on the first day of school, Monday, Aug. 26.