Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Afraid of Not Scoring? No Problem...Just Move the Goalposts!

I know that the NFL changed rules several years ago to give the offense more opportunities to score. But suppose they decided to increase scoring by changing the length of the field from 100 yards to say 75?

How about moving first base 10 feet closer to home?

If you're raising your eyebrows at that, think about public school. How about decreasing the drop out rate by not allowing teachers to give a grade below 50? Or 70? Or what about no grades for homework - no matter if you turn it in or not?

Monday's Dallas Morning News reports, "Many North Texas districts have minimum grades that can be given to students; in the Dallas district, no grade lower than 50 is allowed in any subject. At least one Dallas high school and numerous districts around the state have set a minimum of 70 in their grading policies, meaning students can't fail their classes."

What's the rationale?

"Leslie James, assistant superintendent for policy and planning in the Fort Worth school district and a representative for the school alliance, said many districts have shifted to minimum passing grades to provide a "safety net" for certain students...students who are hit with poor grades are more likely to cause disciplinary problems in school and eventually drop out."

I've not really agreed with Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound very much, but I think she's got it right this time: "If we can't guarantee that our teachers have the ability to assign grades that students have earned or not earned, then everything else we are doing is for naught."

"Her legislation would bar school districts from forcing teachers to assign a minimum grade to failing students regardless of their class work and test scores. It would require that districts adopt a grading policy calling on teachers to issue grades that reflect student mastery of subjects they take."

Seriously? This is the drop out prevention policy - just don't give the kid a bad grade?! These are not just schools with low-income children. One of the wealthiest school districts in Texas, the Plano school district is flirting with the same grading policy.

With colleges already telling us that public schools are sending them students unprepared for college classwork, why are we giving them fewer tools to work with. And with society moving more and more to a knowledge based labor environment, why are we creating this artificial atmosphere for them?

Sooner or later we're going to have to figure out what we really want: educate children or push them through the door in enough time to say adults haven't failed. Accomplish the former, and we'll all be proud. Settling for the latter means all of us flunk!

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