Thursday, May 18, 2006

The F-Grade

Starting around the beginning of May, any teacher who teaches seniors must regularly report thier possible senior failure list. After updating my list, and in light of recent discussions, I wonder about how to solve the issue of credit loss.
Let's consider I. Don Wanna. Don is quite capable of doing the work. He has turned in a couple of essays for my English class, but just can't seem to figure out how to turn in his weekly assignments. When he does, he shows average competency in writing and critical thinking. Unfortunately, he just doesn't do enough of the assignments to improve his ability or earn a passing grade. The Standards Based Community says that if he can meet standard, despite not ever really doing a whole lot, he should pass. And to some extent, I agree. Others would say that I failed to teach the student. And to a great extent, I disagree.
I would feel comfortable, in terms of the standards I have for the class, giving this student his credit. But, I still would want his transcript to show the "F." I would want his G.P.A. to reflect his lack of care.
So, as high schools across America struggle to meet Annual Yearly Progress in graduation rates, I wonder if we need to reconsider how we approach credits. If a student shows up every day, and on the work he or she turns in demonstrates basic understanding, can we really deny that individual credit?


At 7:37 PM , Blogger Mr.D AKA the History Dude said...

This is a great question. Are we assessing basic understanding or a student's mastery of the subject matter? I don't think the education community as a whole has decided. That's why grade inflation and social promotion is out of control and so many college freshmen wind up in remedial classes. Way too many kids are being passed through the system just to get 'em out of the system thanks to IEP's, mods, etc. I'm old school when it comes to this issue - if you didn't master the material you don't pass the class.

At 5:56 AM , Blogger Matt said...

If we establish a standard, whether in our classrooms or at the district level, and the student demonstrates the ability to meet that standard, then the student deserves credit.

Mr. D mentions mastery, but at what point is a student considered to have mastered the material? Most schools give students credit if they earn a "D". Even a "C", typically 70-79%, doesn't really imply mastery to me. However, a "C" certainly could demonstrate an average ability to meet a standard, nothing exemplary, but sufficient.

Unfortunately, caring about a subject or being successful in general is not part of the standards. We need a grade for did just enough to squeak by but never really tried to learn anything. My guess is that the "D" is frequently used for just that purpose.

Under the current system, the individual just isn't held terribly accountable for his own learning. Until we change this fundamental problem and develop a system that educates individuals, pushing them from where they are to where they need to be, we will always have students like "Don".

At 8:43 AM , Blogger graycie said...

A third consideration is growth: did a student grow in skills or body of knowledge? This is a question relevant in particular to those students who have limited ability, but who do grow and learn, although at a slower pace than most others.

At 6:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my classes, this kid would definitely get an F and no credit, but this question forces me to think about how to justify that. To answer that, I would say that a credit is something to be earned. There are certain things students have to do to earn the credit, and in the process they should reach the standard. In other words, getting the credit should not just be about reaching the standard.

I think the F and no credit is also justified because we are trying to get kids ready for the real world. We constantly hear people in the business world attacking public education because they say we're not doing that. I don't have much use for those who are saying that, but I do agree that in order for people to be useful members of society, whether it's as a spouse, parent, employee, or anything else that matters, they have to demonstrate a certain amount of discipline. There are certain things they are going to have to do even when they don't feel like it.

As far as the people who say that Mr. M. is not teaching a kid because he fails to do work he's perfectly capable of doing, I would tell them to take a hike!

At 4:19 PM , Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Here's a consideration: on the work he chooses to turn in he demonstartes a basic competency. But what about the work which he doesn't turn in? There are other standards upon which that work is based, and he has demonstrated NO competency regarding that material.

Giving the student a credit for demonstrating only some of the standards does not show that he has mastered all the standards. Chances are, he only turns in the wok he knows he can do well enough to get a good grade upon (or that he is comfortable doing). Nonetheless, that leaves huge gaps in his education on standards which he has not attempted to master. Crafting a real education involves moving outside our comfort zone so that our knowledge and comprehension can grow.

He is not passing either through percentages or through mastery of standards.


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