November 12, 2014

Pressure to Pass

This week, the Orange County School Board in Orange County, Florida voted 7-1 to pass a proposal that says no middle or high school student can receive a grade below 50% on a quarter or semester report card.

This new grading system, which has been unofficially in place for a year, aims to "keep students motivated" toward graduation. The idea, I guess, is that a super low score in one quarter could make it impossible for a student to pull that grade up enough to still pass. 

Like many teachers, I have a major issue with this policy. How is preparing students for the future if we inflate their grades to meet a policy rather than reflect their learning? How can we "reward" students with a passing grade (at the end of the year), when they've only done half the work?

How does this make sense?

I had enough of a struggle with this when I taught in Louisiana because the grading policy for special education students said that I couldn't give them anything below a C. Basically, it was nearly impossible to fail a student in special education, even if the fault was entirely on the student for lack of effort. The paperwork involved was enough to scare off 99% of my co-workers, but I held my ground and did fail several special education students that year. Of course, this required heaps of documentation and endless meetings, but I firmly believe this was the right move. I did everything in my power to help these kids succeed. I modified every assignment and assessment. I provided unlimited extra time without penalty. I pulled these students often for extra tutoring during the day and after school. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. 

At some point, the accountability has to be put back on our students. 

Apparently, in Orange County, Florida, though, they do not agree. I would hate to be a teacher there, trying to motivate these students who now have a free pass to screw around for half the year as long as they can pull decent grades the other half. I can only imagine the nightmare this will create for classroom management. 

I have an 8th grader this year who has the ability to be amazing but chooses, instead, to be a thorn in the side of his teachers. Not only does he not do his work, but he also disrupts the learning of his classmates. When asked about this, his response was, "They made me go to summer school this year, and even though I still didn't do anything, they passed me to 8th grade. So, why would I work?" 

Sadly, this student has a valid point. And this is what happens in a school district that supposedly does allow students to fail. Supposedly.

I worry that policies like this are creating a generation that knows very little about true responsibility because everything is handed to them. 

1 comment:

  1. Sad to think of our country when these kids take control!