Editor's note: A previous version of this story referred to the Do No Harm rule as a policy, when the Board of Education did not make it a policy, but insitituted it as a practice.
The Lynbrook School District’s Do No Harm rule has been overturned for the 2018–19 school year and replaced by a practice in which students’ Regents exam grades will count for 10 percent of their final grades, district officials said at a Sept. 12 Board of Education meeting.
Under the new rule, each quarter will count for 22.5 percent of a student’s final grade, and a Regents or final exam, 10 percent. When the Do No Harm rule was in effect last year, Regents scores were not calculated as part of students’ final course grades unless they boosted their final averages. When an exam score hurt a final average, each quarter grade counted for 25 percent of the final mark. When a final exam helped, each quarter counted for 20 percent.
The new practice means that for a student who takes seven classes as a sophomore and junior and six classes as a senior, one Regents or final will count for 0.38 percent of his or her overall grade point average. For a student who takes six courses as a sophomore and junior and four as a senior, one Regents or final will count for 0.43 percent (see chart, Page 22).
The move to overturn the Do No Harm rule came after several teachers and students denounced it in June, noting that it led to different standards for students. The rule was added last October in response to outrage over the June 2017 geometry Regents, which included a question that could not be answered and one that had more than one correct answer.
Lynbrook High School Principal Joseph Rainis said that the decision to overturn the practice was made by a committee comprising teachers and administrators who met over the summer to discuss the rule. The committee, Rainis said, considered eliminating Regents exams from final grades, but the members ultimately decided that having the tests count for 10 percent was a fair solution.
“The Regents exam scores reflect a school building’s and a school community’s reputation, and not insignificantly,” Rainis said. “Having the Regents exams continue to count in some way ensures that the results that we can all be proud of, that get published, we could continue to be proud of.”
At the June Board of Education meeting, guidance counselor Laurie Mitchell said that discrepancies in the way Regents scores are counted toward final grades could hurt students when they apply to college. She read statements from college admissions counselors. In all of them, the counselors said that the Do No Harm practicemade it more difficult to evaluate Lynbrook students.
Teachers were also concerned about the practice, they said. “One of the things I’m really having a hard time with is that I’m being directed to do something that goes against every single thing I know about good pedagogy,” Carla Gentile, an English teacher at the high school, said at the June meeting. “I am, and we are, sending a message to our kids to game a system when a system isn’t working for us.”
Having the Regents count for 10 percent, however, is a “reasonable compromise,” Gentile said. Sam Cohen, a high school senior, also said that he thought the new practice was “in our best interest.”
But some parents said they were upset that the Do No Harm rule was overturned. Kelly Stapleton expressed her concern that special-needs students were not included in the plan, and that there was no representative from the special education department at the committee meetings to decide how the district would weigh Regents exams.
Moira LaBarbera said she thought the district had moved forward when it adopted the Do No Harm rule last year. “I just feel like we should give it some time and see how it shakes out,” she said.
Superintendent Dr. Melissa Burak said that the 10 percent rule was decided after “a meeting of the minds.”