Tuesday, September 18, 2007


There's No "F" In "Student Athlete"

Many of us are familiar with the experience of an athlete or coach coming up and asking if there is any way that little Billy can raise his grade.

Many of us may even be familiar with this happening with a student who was in our class in a prior year. Now that billy is a senior, he needs to make sure he has all C's for his NCAA paperwork.

Some of you may even be at a school where you cannot be sure that the administration will support you if you decide not to make the change.

Recently, another teacher informed me of a new technique that is seemingly intended to help athletes slip through the system. Perhaps it is inspired by this story, posted by Joanne Jacobs, about an Oakland charter school.

Billy the athlete is a real turkey. He's the sort of spoiled, coddled jerk who thinks he is doing the world a favor by virtue of his mere existence. He'll kiss your butt to try and get something out of you, and curse you out if he doesn't get it. I cannot speak to whether or not he suffers from Eddie Murphy Syndrome.

Billy needs at least one of his previous teachers to change his grade from last year. Billy is also having major difficulties, including cheating, with passing at least one of his core classes this year. Billy has known about his problems with his current teacher for some time.

We just had progress reports. Here is some background on progress reports:

If a student is added to your class in between the time the progress report forms were printed and the time they are due, you may pencil in the name of the student and still give him grades and comments.

After the reports are processed, but before they are printed and mailed home, teachers are given a summary copy to check for mistakes. There is a window of a day or two to report any necessary changes.

In our district, a student cannot be given an "F" on the report card unless he has been given a progress report that includes the comment "In danger of failing."

All clear? Then let's continue.

Billy has been with his current teacher all year. Billy's current teacher notes that Billy's name does not appear on the progress report scan forms. Again, Billy was not added in the past two or three days. Billy has been with his teacher from the beginning of the year. Knowing Billy's overall situation, and how athletes with poor grades are sometimes handled, you, and I, and Billy's current teacher might not be without justification in wondering if there might be some rotting fishiness in a certain nordic country that rhymes with "pen dark."

My first thought on hearing that Billy's name wasn't on the form was that someone hoped that Billy's teacher wouldn't notice. That someone hoped the teacher would just go down the line, filling in bubbles, without realizing that a student was missing from the list.

Billy's teacher went to the progress report lady and pointed out that Billy's name was missing. She told him he should write it in, and that is just what Billy's teacher did. Problem solved!

Except it wasn't. A few days later, the report summary comes out, giving all of us a chance to check for mistakes. Well, Billy's teacher has his radar up, and not without reason. When he checks for Billy's name, imagine his shock upon discovering that Billy is nowhere in sight. Even though Billy's teacher filled in the form by hand, in front of the progress report lady, Billy was not listed as getting a progress report.

Without that progress report, Billy cannot fail. Billy's teacher, running short on available avenues, decided to visit the principal and express his concerns. The principal tells Billy's teacher that he will look into it. Problem solved!

Or was it? We may never know, since Billy's teacher is no longer Billy's teacher. Billy has been switched to another class. Of course, Billy's new teacher did not have a chance to fill out a progress report. Without that report, Billy is not allowed to fail.

I think it may be my mission in life to track down the elusive hand-written, triplicate carbon, mailed personally by the teacher with a stamp and everything, backup progress report form, just to thwart any potential injustice that this kid may be trying to pull off, with who knows whose help among the coaches and administration.
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