Hancock school board discusses potential policy changes: Final exam exemptions

HANCOCK – A recent policy for exempting Hancock Central High School students from taking final semester exams was discussed by the members of the Hancock Public Schools Board of Education Monday during their work session, and it was decided to continue the policy on a trial basis for one more school year before permanently adopting it.

The exam exemption policy was implemented for the 2012-13 school year as a pilot program, and HCHS Principal John Sanregret said its purpose is to encourage some students to work a little harder.

“We need to constantly try to find ways to motivate kids on the (periphery),” he said.

Sanregret said some of those marginal students may be stimulated to try to get to the 87th percentile goal if they know it will mean they can skip the final exam each semester. The policy states, also, the final exam cannot lower the semester grade for a class, only improve it.

Board member Glenn North said he was concerned the requirement for a student to have a minimum 87 percent for grades for the semester was too low.

“We should set the standards a little bit higher,” he said.

North was also concerned individual teachers could require a higher grade percentage for the semester in order to be exempt from the final exam for a semester, which he said conflicts with the school policy.

Board Secretary Chris Heikkinen said he had two children in the high school last year, and the final exam exemption policy worked well for them.

“They were very motivated,” he said. “They performed better and studied more to get out of those (final) exams.”

Board member Paula Nutini said she was concerned the maximum of three absences for the policy would be unfair to students who are doing well with grades above the minimum 87 percent.

“I have a real problem with that,” she said.

Jim Rautiola, a resource room teacher who was at the meeting, said he thinks the policy works well.

“Our students are prepared for the big exams,” he said.

Heikkinen said he likes the policy because it gives parents the option of having their children take the final exam even if they’re qualified to be exempt.

“I like this policy because it’s very parent friendly,” he said.

Superintendent Monica Healy said she’s heard, also, from parents who are concerned about the 87 percent requirement. She also knows there are many students who do very well in school even if they miss many days.

Sanregret said another purpose of the final exam exemption policy is to help students learn life skills they will need when they either go on to college or into the workforce.

Sanregret said more parents he’s talked to about the policy are for it than are against it.

He’ll make adjustments to the policy based on the concerns of the board members, Sanregret said, and he asked to keep the policy in place as a pilot program for one more school year. He’ll gather data about the policy to see how it’s working and present that information to the board in June.

Since the meeting was a work session, there was no vote by the board on the final exam exemption policy. That may be done at its regular meeting Sept. 16.