Board Hears about Academic Integrity Guidelines and ‘Badges’

WSSD Superintendent Dr. Lisa Palmer (left) and School Board Chair Dr. Rick Sonntag welcomed new Region 2 School Board member Vippy Yee of Rose Valley. She replaces Jerry Ballas, who is moving out of the region. Photo by Katie Crawford.

WSSD Superintendent Dr. Lisa Palmer (left) and School Board Chair Dr. Rick Sonntag welcomed new Region 2 School Board member Vippy Yee of Rose Valley. She replaces Jerry Ballas, who is moving out of the region. Photo by Katie Crawford.

Wallingford-Swarthmore School District
By Chris Reynolds

Strath Haven High School Assistant Principal Thomas McLaughlin presented a briefing on the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District’s Academic Integrity Guidelines, which he hopes will be incorporated into the high school’s policy manual for the 2017-2018 year.

A key component of the integrity initiative is the “badge” educational program, which was developed by SHHS Librarian Beth Cohen. Cohen spelled McLaughlin at the podium, walking the board through a presentation of the badge module.

The program is an online Moodle platform which presents students with guidelines and examples of what information-sharing is — e.g., doing homework with a friend — and isn’t — e.g., using Google translate to write a French composition — acceptable practice in an academic community. Students who demonstrate their understanding through a final quiz will earn an electronic badge, which will be a requirement for grade advancement.

Strath Haven 9th graders were the first to complete the program during the fall 2016 semester. Between the issuance of the last badge and the end of the semester, McLaughlin said there were 17 reported incidents of cheating among the school’s 1,142 students, which McLaughlin described as a good outcome for a single iteration of the program in one grade. No disciplinary measures are prescribed for anything short of a “three point” violation (for example, theft of a test or sharing of test answers, which can cause considerable upheaval for the teachers and curriculum). Accumulation of two such violations could be disclosed by the school on student information reports to colleges.

Board members Dr. Allison Karpyn and Ms. Chapin Cimino — both educators — urged McLaughlin to incorporate the badge requirements and program description into the new Academic Integrity Guidelines, which will govern students starting this fall. This will be done in time for a review and potential adoption at the board’s July 17 meeting.

The next phase continues the gradual integration of the badge program into the culture of the high school, with the program educating new 9th graders and a reiteration among 10th graders, or a new course for 11th graders. In addition, Librarian Beth Cohen will create a module for introduction to the middle school grades in 2018-2019.

Treat, or Trick?

An otherwise routine review of changes to the cafeteria’s a la carte menu pricing provided food for thought. Region 2 board member Dr. Robert Reiger called attention to the increase the price of a Rice Krispies Treat from 75 cents to $1.25, and of a Nature Valley granola bar from 50 cents to $1, suggesting that “price gouging is taking place.” District Business Manager Martha Kew explained that item costs have generally increased, and that the USDA (which partly funds school food programs) requires periodic price increases to maintain profit margins in food sales, and issues a price calculator which WSSD used to calculate a la carte pricing. The pricing was approved by a vote of 7 to 1.

Bye to Ballas, Yes to Yee

Board member Jerry Ballas attended his final meeting, as he prepares to move to Swarthmore, outside Region 2, which he has represented for 3½ years. Ballas remarked that he had been “proud to be part of this group, where we can all work together toward a common purpose.” President Sonntag in turn praised Ballas’s service, which was marked by “integrity, a gentle touch, and a common sense approach.”

The Board unanimously voted in Vippy Yee to replace Ballas as a representative from Region 2. Ms. Yee, a Rose Valley resident, says she saw a community need to fill this vacancy on the school board, and “decided to step up.” This will only be a six month position for Ms. Yee, who is the mother of twin girls, rising 9th graders at Strath Haven. In the fall, she will be on the ballot as a candidate for borough council in Rose Valley.

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