Saturday, June 21, 2008


The Gentleman's "D"

Every year, at the last faculty meeting, the head counselor gets up and gives teachers a lecture about grades. In our district, we have a policy that a student who does not get a comment saying "In danger of failing" on the mid-quarter progress report, cannot be given an "F" on the end of quarter report card. If a student does get an "F" without that warning comment, the student is free to protest the grade and have it changed.

The result is not difficult to imagine. All it takes is hearing one or two students say "I didn't get a progress report in math, so the lowest I can get is a 'D' this quarter." Even if a student cuts the remaining 50% of the quarter, it is impossible to fail. Of course, a teacher could get the form for a hand-written supplemental progress report, mail it at least ten days before the quarter ends, and be covered. Most teachers just give every student an "In danger of failing" comment. Yes, even "A" students. Even students who seem great can go off the rails. When it comes to credits for graduation, it's best not to take any chances.

We have a second policy for graduating seniors. Graduation is on Saturday. Seniors have no school on Friday; instead, they just come in for graduation practice. Thursday is the last day for seniors. On that Thursday, teachers have until one hour after school is out to report to the counseling office any senior who is failing a class. You are notifying them that the student has failed, and there is no way for that student to pass. The counselors then call parents to tell them that little Billy or Sally won't be graduating.

Would it surprise you to learn that on Friday, some students who got the phone call arrive to argue and protest their grade? I am fortunate that for this year, my seniors who were failing knew what their status was. Last year, for one student, I was summoned to two different AP's offices to justify the failing grade given to a certain student. It was brutal. Sitting in an office with an upset mother and a crying student who insisted that I had told her she would be passing if she did assignment x, y, and z is not a fun way to spend time. The really upsetting part is that the default mindset of the district and our school is that the parents and students must be right, and it is the part of the district and school administration to determine just what sorts of things the teacher is doing wrong to have caused this terrible problem.

I don't even think the grade book would save me. After all, the student says she turned in all her work, and if the student is always right, then the teacher must have lost the work, or didn't enter it in correctly. The only thing that saved me was the fact that I made copies of her essay final, and the essay final of the student she copied from, and highlighted at least fifteen examples of word for word copying. In some cases, it was sentence for sentence copying. Based on the two papers, it was obvious that this student was the one who did the copying.

If the teacher does not report a failing senior by the one hour after school deadline, the student cannot fail. Let's say you put together this list of failing students, and forgot one. You accidentally skipped the name. That night, at home you realize your mistake. Even if that kid had a 0.0%, you MUST give a "Gentleman's 'D'" and let the student pass.

With that in mind, riddle me this: a senior graduates, attends the ceremony, is one of the speakers at the ceremony, picks up his diploma after the ceremony. How does the school get away with calling him several days later to tell him he is missing five credits and needs to take a summer school class to graduate?

If a teacher makes a mistake and doesn't include a student on the failing list, the student must be passed and be given credits he didn't earn. If the school makes a mistake, after the graduation, after the kid has taken the diploma home, they can just ungraduate him? There seems to be some sort of disconnect here. Which I should be used to by now, since this is standard procedure for our school.

As a bonus treat, I've come into possession of some intelligence, aka notes passed by students, that could be fun. Authorship is unclear, so we'll just have to go with the nicknames the corrsespondents used for themselves. We'll get to those next time.
I had a senior issue like that this year. It wears me out.
Those are some heinous policies. Absolutely stupid. I guess they make sense if your goal is to get kids to graduate as opposed to ensure they've learned a minimum of knowledge.

Why create all the hoops and middlemen? Why not just have a policy that administrators can change any grade for any student. At least that would be more honest, in a way.
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