Monday, 8 December 2008

No more giving an "F" in school

Is the point of 'no child left behind' to eliminate failure for children or to give them the tools with which to succeed?

Another school in the United States, this time Grand Rapids, Michigan, has chosen to
eliminate "F" as a grade and instead give students an "H" - for Held - and the opportunity to retake tests or resubmit homework in order to avoid failure.

I sometimes wonder whether teachers' reluctance to give a failing grade is more about helping children's self esteem or teachers'.

Not giving an "F" in circumstances where it is merited can only serve to improve a school's academic result, which may well be the point of the policy given the increasing pressure schools in many countries are coming under to get their results back to the level that used to be achieved before the left took over the education system.
For more students nationwide, the grading alphabet ends at "D," as school districts eliminate policies that allow children to be given failing marks.

At public schools in Grand Rapids, Mich., high school students will no longer receive "F"s but instead will earn the letter "H" when their work falls woefully short.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor told that the "H" stands for "held," and is a system designed to give students a second chance on work that was not up to par.

"I never see anyone doing anything but punishing kids," said Taylor. "If the choice is between letting kids fail and giving them another opportunity to succeed, I'm going to err on the side of opportunity."
What will kids learn from this policy? That failure has no consequences.

Schools claim to be preparing students for the 'real world' by including in their curriculum such nonsense as cooking (or 'food tech', as I've heard it called), textiles (aka the ability to darn your own socks), stage design and even surfing etc.

In what 'real world' does failure not have a consequence? Haven't paid your rent on time? No worries, pay it in a couple of weeks. Sales figures at 10% of target? No worries, you're still a sales star.

There's no such place.
Students in Taylor's district can choose to retake the course, do extra work online or decide on a different remedial action with their teacher.

But if the work has not been rectified within 12 weeks, Taylor said the student will still receive a failing grade.
12 weeks! What are the chances that the so-called remedial action worked out by failure-shy teachers will provide soft solutions that ensure students 'pass'?
At one Boston area middle school, a policy known as "Zeros Aren't Permitted" gives students who do not complete their homework on time an opportunity during school hours to finish so that they do not fail the assignment.
During school hours? These people are away with the fairies.
The school principal explained that the policy was implemented in hopes of preventing "students from failing homework assignments and slipping through the cracks of the education system."
They're not 'slipping through the cracks', they're being placed into the crack and positively banged through by hopeless self esteem policies.
But school administrators, child psychologists and even parents disagree over whether the controversial policy in school grading may actually be detrimental to children in the long run.

Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University, believes that schools that veer away from giving children the grades they have earned – even when it's a zero or an "F" – aren't doing anyone any good.

"Children aren't going to gain from ambiguous information regarding their grades," said Kazdin.

"The fact is children are failing yet we don't want to call it that," said Kazdin. "It's this whole notion that everyone's a winner and everyone gets a trophy."

Kazdin argues that children are perceptive enough that they will eventually realize they aren't doing well in school whether teachers give them "F"s or not, and that hiding their true level of achievement will only confuse them further.

"The task is to change the reality, not the labeling of it," he said.

Providing detailed feedback on what children can do to improve their grades is imperative, said Kazdin. While students may feel initially feel demoralized when they receive a failing grade, Kazdin said that by providing them with specific ways to improve their class standing they will eventually benefit from the traditional grading system.
That's exactly correct. I have been tutoring some of my friends' kids in mathematics, which seems to be a skill lost on the younger generation. After each session I give them a score and explain why they got, for example, 2/10. After about three months they have a series of scores that are generally increasing and, critically, when I ask them to grade themselves after each session they are able to get close to what I give them because they now have a way of measuring their own performance. One of them has gone from getting Cs and Ds to scoring 17/17 on one test and 80% on another, much to the surprise of his teacher (and mine, too, I must admit).
But the director of programs for the National Parent Teacher Association, Sherri Johnson, maintains that as more research emerges about the different ways children learn, the grading system needs to be tweaked accordingly.

"Research shows that children develop and learn at different paces and in different ways," said Johnson.

"Schools have to move toward more of a portfolio process in measuring progress and learning," she said. "A student may get an 'A' but that report card should also show where there are opportunities for improvement."

Johnson said that with the nation's drop out rate hovering around 30 percent, schools should be doing whatever they can to prevent students from getting so discouraged that they give up on their education.

"By the time many students get to high school some have probably experienced so much failure on paper that they ask themselves, 'what's the point?'" said Johnson.
"For kids to see an 'F' on their work is deflating," she said.
Oh, boo bloody hoo. Isn't it also deflating for teachers to give an F, as per my previous comment? This stuff does not help.
But mom Alison Rhodes says that a little disappointment may not be so bad for the generation that has become accustomed to an "everyone is a winner" lifestyle.

"I think we're setting these kids up for failure and unrealistic exercitations because there is a consequence for not trying your best," said Rhodes, who is also known as TV's "Safety Mom." "You can't slack off and still expect to win."

"[A system where] there are no zeros or 'F's is coddling them and sending them the wrong message," she said. "A dose of reality and tough love is what they need."
Good stuff,

You should become a teacher.

(Nothing Follows)


Gail said...

Children's learning curve from birth to entering kindergarten is almost a vertical line. Then it flattens out.

A baby has a real incentive to learn, it is called survival. When a child enters school, they no longer need to survive, they need to be protected from real life and are given all of the necessary tools to avoid reality for the next 12 years. Then they are on their own and then they vote for Obama who promises them no failure, no work, no responsibility...exactly as intended.

Socialism requires a very stupid populace, it is no coincidence that our libaral acdademic establishment is leading the way down the yellow brick road.

Besides, teachers are union members, their job is to get paid for not working. So they come up with lots of ingenius ways to not do their,"if I really teach and grade them honestly, it might hurt their feelings, so it's best to do nothing at all"...welcome to CHANGE!

Best regards,
Gail S

Myrddin Seren said...

And a lot of kids and their parents in America seem to be heavily armed, so Parent-Teacher evenings might be a little more 'tense' there than they are here in 'Stralia, when the teacher is breaking the news to little Bart and the family that he is 'underachieving' !

( With tongue somewhat planted in cheek - but you gotta wonder if they do run the families through metal detectors at some schools there ? ).


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