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Poor grades have Buffalo school officials searching for answers

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Buffalo Public Schools are grappling with bad grades. The issue goes beyond the standard problems of scores on state standardized tests. Officials want to understand why so many city students are getting extremely poor marks on their report cards each marking period.

Faced with that, school district administrators are going out to the buildings and talking with teachers and talking with principals. They are finding a lot of problems and working on fixing them, although that may take a while.

Buffalo School Board Member Theresa Harris-Tigg has a different take on what's going wrong, based on her student teachers from SUNY Buffalo State in city schools.

"Some of our teachers will look at me, former graduates of Buff State, and they look at me and they say: I know to do something different but I'm not allowed to do it. And, I think that's what was surprising for Dr. Cash today. He was uncomfortable with that," Harris-Tigg said.

Harris-Tigg's comments were made during the school board's committee sessions, where a wide variety of problems which have turned up were discussed.

City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash was told recently it's very difficult to notify parents when a student isn't doing well during a marking period because of tangled systems.

"There should be an automatic flag of a child who is failing, D and F, six weeks into the quarter, not at the end of the quarter and you send out a progress report. Do we not do something of that nature?" Cash asked.    

Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley
Inside West Hertel Academy in Buffalo.

Top administrators like Chief Academic Office Anne Botticelli are going into classrooms and looking at how individual teachers set up their grading systems. They are also looking at standards set in buildings by principals. They aren't finding the consistent standards the district wants.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.