Thursday, August 23, 2018

What A Disservice We Do

Standards?  We don't need no stinkin' standards.

We let anyone pass through junior high.  Fail all 6 classes both years?  No problem.  Maybe we'll pretend to care and you'll pretend to learn something in summer school, but it certainly isn't mandatory--neither the attendance nor the learning.

So these kids who flunk their way through middle school get to high school, and all of a sudden the bar, which had been in the vicinity of their ankles, is now above their shoulders.  In order to graduate they have to pass 4 years of English, 2 years of math, etc.  That's right, pass.  And those are just the minimal state standards.  Then add in districts trying to outdo each other in the I-can-set-higher-graduation-standards-than-you sweepstakes, requiring students to have passed 3 years of math, 2 years of science, 2 years of foreign language, etc.  We've trained middle school students that you don't have to pass a thing in order to move on to the next grade, and then they get to high school, where actual standards enshrined in law, augmented by district policy, come into play.

Yes, they'll be able to jump through so-called credit recovery hoops if they fall far behind, and maybe they'll pass and eventually graduate even if they've learned nothing.  But at the very minimum we'll require them to jump through hoops, and perhaps pirouette, before we give them a diploma.

These 9th graders show up in the Miller Hall of Learning, and they want to stare at me during class.  They don't want to write anything down, don't want to practice, don't even want to try.  Not even take out a pencil or a piece of paper.  "I can't think today", as if that's a get-out-of-jail-free card.  It's probably even been a good enough reason to be free of effort in the past, but it's not sufficient now.  It's just not.  Seriously, you can't subtract 3 from both sides of this equation?  And you think this is OK?  I get it if some traumatic event just happened, but it seems it would be the normal state of things if I allowed it to be--as it was allowed to be before 9th grade.

Such 9th graders are always a challenge.  It's been awhile since I've had any freshmen but the top students, so I haven't dealt with this in a few years.  If I were naive I'd be surprised that nothing has changed on this front in the many years since I've had such students.  Instead I'm just disappointed.

Why we train students that apathy is OK, and why we reinforce that belief, is something I cannot fathom.


lgm said...

Ah, your School Board has not provided enlightenment. Let me share: These children are not elites. Their lives are stressful, and they must not be further traumatized by being made to work on academics in school, against their will. That is called slavery, and we shall not enslave. They will learn when they are ready. Thus, multiple diploma options and many athletic options so they may demonstrate their thinking skills qualify them for a college.

I kid you not. Speaker has moved on in the political world.

Chanman said...

As a long time middle school teacher, I can attest that all you say is absolutely true. My fellow teachers and I scream from the rooftops every year to anyone in our district who will listen that one of the biggest reasons that our middle school students are so low-performing, is that they have absolutely no incentive to succeed, as they can indeed fail every class every year. The worst thing that will happen to them is that they will not be able to walk in their eighth grade promotion ceremony. Unless there is a parent at home breathing down their neck to turn in their work and behave themselves in class and get good grades, the students look at their three years of middle school as just one big extended party. My fellow teachers and I tell them over and over again that the party is going to come to a crashing end once they start high school. But you know kids: they usually don't believe you and I have to find out for themselves… The hard way. Ultimately, you receive our dysfunctional product.

Unknown said...

I agree with everything that Chanman said. This is coming from a middle school teacher.

Anonymous said...

Don't you dare give homework to these students because if they're not elite, then homework is racist. If they're elite, they take on too many activities and don't need homework to stress them out even more.

Also, standards based grading.

*giant eyeroll*

Mike43 said...

I recently had an 11th grade student from Michigan enroll, here in Houston. Problem: Her transcript clearly stated she's an 11th grader. However, she had about 4 credits on her transcript.

In Texas, she's a freshman. We explained that to her and her guardian, and told her it would take 2.5 to 3 years to graduate. She was not happy, to say the least.

"But I've been in high school for 3 years." Yep, maybe should've gone to class and passed some tests.

Somehow, I think she's headed back to Michigan.

Ellen K said...

Welcome to my world. While I am expected to hit all the educational high notes: rigor, insightful writing, e-portfolios, etc.-I get at least half of my students from the section that fought with the band director, is chronically absent or just defiantly lazy. I am supposed to magically transform these students into willing scholars. This is not something that a teacher one hour a day can do. I still have parents who have never accessed the expensive online gradebook in 12 years.