In Monday’s blog, “With Honor Toward None,” I wrote how I felt it was wrong for schools to eliminate honors and advanced placement classes because the student population was not racially diverse. I pointed out a decision of that sort made as much sense as eliminating athletic competition because all people are not equally proficient in sports
In Mount Olive Township, New Jersey, the school district instituted a new policy last September eliminating the “D” grade for students. They did this by raising the failure score from 65 to anything under 70. According to an Associated Press story, “Superintendent Larrie Reynolds says the number of failing grades for district middle and high school students dropped 42.5 percent in the first quarter. And more students earned A's and B's.” Doesn’t that sound good? Wrong!
The story continued with, “They note the new policy allowed hundreds of students to retake exams and redo assignments following initial failing grades, often bringing up their scores and grades.”
Of course, a student will get a better score on a test if they are allowed to take it again! They already know the questions and probably the answers! How is this new policy any kind of indication of what the students really learned? It only shows that the students did better the second time around because they already knew the questions and could easily find the answers to the test, not that they knew the course work better. Anybody would succeed under those terms!
The other story that has me going insane was one that appeared in Sunday's New York Times Week in Review. It talked about how students should not be graded only on what their tests scores reflect but by their demeanor in life.
Last fall, over protests from parents of some of the above-average students, the eighth-grade math teachers at Ellis tried the new, "attitude in life" standards-based grading system, and this fall that new system is being used by the entire middle school and in high school for ninth graders. The theory of standards-based grading is that students should be rewarded for being friendly, prepared, compliant, a good school citizen, well-organized and hard-working, according to the New York Times story. Do we all live in a Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood now? A student cannot show proficiency in mathematics by being “friendly”!
So students know they will get better grades because they will also be based on how “friendly” they are. What happens when they are accepted to a college based on their “happy grades” and can’t succeed for lack of real knowledge?
The Times story also told us, “The percentage of students who attend college is rising; 67 percent of high school graduates now enroll in some sort of post-secondary school after graduation (up from 43 percent in 1973). But the reality is that many don’t succeed, in large part because they are not academically prepared. Federal data shows that fewer than 60 percent of students graduate from four-year colleges in six years. Among students at a community college, only one in three earns a degree. Recently released data from ACT shows that only 24 percent of high school seniors knew enough in four subjects — math, reading, science and English — to do college-level work.”
So high schools make it easier to get a good grade, but the student fails once they reach college. When are educators going to realize that they have to make high school tougher, not easier?
Mr. Rogers once said in his neighborhood, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." Well, I keep seeing scary things in the news and no one is helping.