Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Terrible Idea From Grand Rapids Public Schools

Yesterday, Grand Rapids Public Schools announced that there will be no F's on report cards this trimester: If a student did not pass a class, he will be awarded an "H." It's called the "Success Only Option," and of the 20,930 classes taken by students throughout four high schools, 2,364 of them will be assigned a grade of "H" when report cards come out this week.

None of the four high schools in the district is meeting the federal standards. Lots of their students drop out (about 25%)...typically the ones who get the F's. The idea here, presumably, is that the students will realize that they still have the opportunity to take the class again, or take it online or in some other format (such as summer sessions), so that they can still have the opportunity to pass. The administrator of the district was quoted as saying something along the lines of "Failure is something that all of us experience..., but why do we want to visit that [failure] on 14-, 15-, and 16-year-old children?"

Students will have one term to retake the class, and then the grade could change to an F. An "H" was referred to as a "delayed failing grade."

Teachers, naturally, are not pleased. They realize that these same immature "14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds" also frequently fail to have the maturity to meet deadlines, deal with stress, and reach expectations. Giving them a perceived "out" will make the teacher's job even more difficult (and in a district like GRPS, it's difficult enough—and that doesn't even count their labor union issues) when one of those same immature kids tells them, "Who cares? I'm not going to fail your class! You can't fail me! So what if I have to take it again later?"

Parents should not be pleased, either. As a teacher, I firmly believe that the largest part of high school failing grades and dropouts have their roots in parents who, over time, have not put an emphasis on education and who have not taught their children by their lives, actions, and words that education and graduation are of high importance. Parents who do those things generally have kids who pass and graduate, so why should they be worried? Because their children's teachers are going to have a more difficult task dealing with the immaturity of the other students, thereby shriveling up the time they can give to teaching!

Those who have not been involved in public education (as adults, not students) often are oblivious to how much disruption the more immature students are capable of inflicting. To empower and embolden them by saying "Don't worry, you won't get an F" is going to be like waving red in front of bulls. Classroom decorum will suffer.

But most of all, this terrible idea isn't going to accomplish its goal of getting more students to graduate. To graduate, you still have to pass the required courses. An "H" isn't a passing grade; it is not adequate to get the credit. At best, it will stall the dropout from dropping out. Consider these two students:

  1. Student A, after two years, has 7 credits and 3 F's.
  2. Student B, after two years, has 7 credits and 3 H's.
Both are equally close to (or far away from) graduating. Both still have 3 credits to get. Both still have the same opportunities to get those 3 credits. The first student may feel despondent; the second may feel indifferent—yet neither of these is good!

The cold, hard truth is that children must recognize the consequences of life. They must learn, through lessons small or large, that failure to meet their responsibilities reaps failure in some area of life. Ideally, they will learn this before high school in things less substantial. The immature student might actually benefit from the kick-in-the-pants that an "F" brings, when he finally realizes that consequences are real, serious, and sometimes life-long. Isn't that a good thing?

1 comment:

Brenda Brough said...

Astounding! Who thought this ludicrous idea up.....Jennifer Granholm? Or maybe the astute Senator Carl Levin? And what, pray tell, does the "H" stand for? I guess the grades given in alphabetical form don't really "stand" for any particular word, but in this case it should. How about something like, "This is a bunch of 'HOOEY'!", or "Heck if I know", or "HELP ME!" This idea is worse than the Department of Transportation allowing all interstate highways in Michigan to shut down to ONE lane in both directions SIMULTANEOUSLY every summer for construction!! Just ridiculous!! Oh, they must've been the ones who thought this new "H" grade up!