Nearly 10,000 Paterson students received grades of “incomplete” for the fourth marking period, highlighting the district’s struggle to provide students an education after schools were forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.
School district data shows 9,759 students — representing a third of Paterson students – have received the grade of “incomplete.” 6,391 were elementary school students in 3-8 grades; 3,368 were high school students in 9-12 grades.
“Students who did not complete their assignments have received grades of incomplete for the fourth marking period. The district is giving students every opportunity to submit missing work and convert grades of incomplete to the appropriate letter grades,” said superintendent Eileen Shafer in a statement on Thursday.
Shafer said the district has given families the option of waiting until schools re-open to submit missing work.
Deadline to submit work is October 1, she said at a public meeting last month.
The district closed on March 17 as coronavirus cases began to increase in New Jersey. District officials had to distribute tens of thousands of paper packets to students to deliver an at-home education.
School officials hadn’t equipped students with laptops or tablets before the pandemic. In late April, Shafer distributed Chromebooks to high school students.
School board member Corey Teague was surprised by the 3,368 high school students who received grades of incomplete for the fourth marking period.
“They had their devices. And so that really doesn’t make sense,” said Teague, speaking of high school students. He said the Board of Education needs to have a discussion to better understand the situation.
School board president Kenneth Simmons said the high school students had received packets that they had to complete before the laptops were distributed. He also said some parents have yet to submit their children’s packets to the district.
“Some students may have been present in online classes but did not submit the assignments. This could be for a number of reasons including a family having difficulty accessing the internet, or a student having difficulty with the class material. And we cannot forget that students and families are facing challenges brought on by the pandemic itself, which could impede a student’s ability to turn in assignments,” said Shafer.
“It’s alarming,” said school board member Emanuel Capers. He said a third of students getting grades of incomplete raises more questions about the attendance data district officials presented at a board meeting last month.
Capers and his colleagues raised questions about attendance data that showed daily average attendance was better when the schools were closed.
Average daily attendance for district students was 92.56% in January, but that figure climbed by two percent to 94.61% in June, according to data presented to the school board last month.
School board member Vincent Arrington was audibly frustrated as school officials presented the data.
“For me, the purpose of reports is to make sure that our students are engaged and involved. We want to make sure that this wasn’t a vacation,’ said Arrington in the July 22 public meeting.
School officials called parents and conducted welfare checks to gather attendance. They also took into account returned packets.
Simmons said the state gave local districts a great deal of flexibility in gathering attendance.
Arrington wanted more precise and accurate data. He asked for Google Classroom activity data.
Students who received grades of incomplete will still go to the next grade level, said school officials.
“We made a bad situation into the best we could with what we had at that time,” said Shafer at the July 22 meeting.
Simmons said the district is better prepared if it has to close again in the next school year and provide virtual instruction to students. School officials have ordered thousands of Chromebooks to make sure every student has a device. They also formed a partnership with Altice to ensure every device has internet access.
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