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South Hadley superintendent vows to fight grade inflation

South Hadley Superintentent Nicholas Young sits in his office in South Hadley Town Hall.

AYRIKA WHITNEY

South Hadley Superintentent Nicholas Young sits in his office in South Hadley Town Hall. AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

Grade inflation occurs when students receive higher grades for the same quality of work as students in the past. Young feels it impedes students’ learning. If students have challenges, he said, it is more productive to identify them, so the school can do its part to address them.

“I don’t think we should shy away from communicating struggles,” Young said.

This was one of Young’s 22 goals for the 2013-2014 school year accepted by the school committee on Tuesday.

Young said he finds that at the elementary level, grades tend to be determined primarily by students’ displays of effort, but often do not match up with how well skills have been acquired. As a result, students might experience difficulties when they reach the middle school, he said.

“The middle school is the catching ground for friction in South Hadley Public Schools,” he said.

To address the problem, Young said he might look into ways to adjust the report card structure at Mosier Elementary School, which houses grades 2 through 4.

For students who are especially strong in math, Young said he is exploring the possibility of offering pre-algebra in the sixth grade, a year earlier than it is currently offered. This would put those students on a track to take two levels of calculus at the high school.

Young said he has concerns about keeping a small group of especially gifted students fully engaged, and this would be a way to keep them challenged.

Another goal is to launch a remediation program to serve the needs of “grey area” students who do not qualify for special education but still need extra help, Young said. The program will include tutoring and small-group instruction, and will be offered from pre-kindergarten through the high school grade levels.

Young said he expects this to be a good year for addressing the needs of students who might require extra help.

“This is a big, big year for us, and we’re excited about it,” he said.

Also among Young’s goals are the initiation of the South Hadley Scholars Program, through which high school juniors and seniors can earn college credit, and a review of the English language arts and science curricula.

The committee also welcomed South Hadley High School junior Cailey Newton as its new student representative.

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