The Smoke Signal

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Student council member: Representatives must take action to get gradebook access back

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For over two months, Pascack Valley students have been barred from checking their grades during school hours.

The consensus? Students are upset.

Lately, we have been hearing a lot about the fight to reopen Genesis. But what about the fight against closing Genesis in the first place? As a member of student council, I can give you a firsthand account.

In addition to being a PV student, I am a representative on the Sophomore Council. As a representative, it is my job to represent the sophomores of PV — just as the representatives from the other class councils represent the students from their respective classes.

On the morning of Sept. 13, I went to the monthly meeting of all the school’s student councils. The administration first introduced the possibility of closing the gradebook to students, in particular, class representatives, at that meeting.

As class representatives, we are the voices of all the students we represent. We knew that most students would be opposed to closing the gradebook. So we spoke up.

We knew that most students would be opposed to closing the gradebook. So we spoke up.”

— Thomas DeWitt

Although a few of the representatives in attendance supported the effort to restrict Genesis access, the overwhelming majority of the representatives expressed great opposition. Nevertheless, days later, we were informed that a trial period of restricted access to Genesis during school hours would be implemented from Oct. 1 to Thanksgiving. We were told that after this trial, there would be a discussion and evaluation to determine a long-term plan.

Fast forward to Nov. 19, a few days before Thanksgiving break.

We all opened our emails and were shocked to discover that Genesis would remain closed during school hours, indefinitely.

Now fast forward to where we are today.

If the concerns expressed by class representatives were not enough, the students’ opinions are now beyond clear. A Smoke Signal poll from during the trial period showed that over 70 percent of students disliked having the gradebook closed. Most students disagree with the premise of restricting grades. Grades belong to the students.

Furthermore, restricting gradebook access during the school day sets a precedent for further restriction. And I know that nobody wants to go back to the days of the mid-semester progress reports that PV had years ago.

Students were told that closing the gradebook during school hours was part of an effort to change a “grade focused” culture to a “learning focused” culture. Well, the reality is that today’s world is grade-based. Grades are one of the key factors that determine one’s educational path.

Yes, the process of learning is important, but so are grades. Until I can get accepted to a college based on the history of my learning instead of the history of my grades, I would like full access to view my grades. And so would hundreds of the students that I represent as a class representative, as shown by the popular petition that has been circulating online and has already drawn in over 500 signatures.

At first, I did not sign the petition because I did not like the original idea of having a walkout. I did not think a walkout would be the most appropriate response to this situation. What I do support, however, is the attempt to have a productive conversation with the administration. In my opinion, a discussion would be the best way for students’ voices to be directly heard.

I am not suggesting that the administration’s decision to block access to grades during school was a decision made in bad faith. I understand the administration’s concerns and I know that they had good intentions, but at the same time, I feel like the concerns that were voiced by students were pushed aside.

I understand the administration’s concerns and I know that they had good intentions, but at the same time, I feel like the concerns that were voiced by students were pushed aside.”

— Thomas DeWitt

Why does it seem this way? Because the majority of students spoke up against the policy. Because before it was even Thanksgiving, which was the official end of the over 7-week trial period, an email was sent out announcing that a verdict had already been reached. Many students felt that the fix was in — that the decision to keep Genesis closed was set in stone — and understandably so. And after the trial period, where was the student consultation? I guess the “stakeholders” that were asked for feedback did not include class representatives.

A previous Smoke Signal article reported that after the petition was created, the administration suggested that students should be “talking to student council representatives” about the issue. Being a representative myself, and after witnessing dozens of student representatives speak out against closing Genesis at the Sept. 13 meeting, I was frustrated to hear this. We definitely made our position clear — students want full access to their grades. But since the representatives’ feedback was already disregarded, all we can do now is hope that the voices of the hundreds of students who are against this new policy can spark change.

I am calling on my fellow representatives from all grades to continue to stand up for those they represent. Our classmates are not happy, and as the leaders of our classes, we need to stand united so our voices can be heard. They voted for us so we can fight for them, not so we can sit back and let their voices go unheard.

As students who believe in a cause, it is up to all of us to work together in our effort to get our grade access back.

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Student council member: Representatives must take action to get gradebook access back