Friday, January 23, 2009

Automatic 50%

On another post, Teacher wrote:

I am wandering off topic today and am hopeful that perhaps the Pure Reform Blog Administrators can start a new thread.With the close of the second nine weeks today, I have been busy calculating grades for my students, as are most PPS teachers. I am factoring in 50% scores where 0 scores previously stood. Please note, this means that I am giving half credit to students who decided NOT to do classwork, NOT to take part in discussions, NOT to do homework, NOT to do papers, NOT to study for tests, etc.

Please note that while most parents here cannot fathom this scenario because they value education and have instilled such thinking in their children, the very act of substituting 50% for 0 means many kids pass when they have no business passing. Furthermore, it means that in most cases, grades jump not only to 'D' status but to 'C' status. And in line with that, C students jump to B or A levels.

So I will put it to you, as PPS administration has failed to make any sense of this issue to classroom teachers: HOW DOES THIS MAKE SENSE? How can any teacher look at this as fair? How can any teacher look at the true efforts of a kid who works hard and only gets 'C' scores and then at the kid who simply puts forth no effort and say to himself, well, they are equal?Please explain it to me.

Then let's hear from Dr.Barnett about achievement gaps and disparities.

Posted by Teacher to PURE Reform at January 23, 2009 3:45 PM

21 comments:

Questioner said...

Points about the 50% policy are well taken, except for the reference to Dr. Barnett. Dr. Barnett's testimony doesn't at all address any views she may have on the 50% policy!

Anonymous said...

You misunderstood. The point was and remains, with a 50% policy, the only way an achievement gap can possibly be is thanks to non attendance. Dr.Barnett knows this, I am sure, and as such, one must wonder about the reasons for taking a data pro to task. The idea is, hey, all I have to do is show up for school...and I'll pass. Maybe even better than that!!!

PPSparent said...

By comments about the achievement gap are you saying that only black kids are "benefiting" from this practice?

Of course, teachers should know that achievement gaps as reported are NOT based on grades, they are based solely on PSSA scores (so math and reading and soon enough, I guess, on the science scores).

I also question from the original post the comment about kids who do nothing ever passing -- a 50% isn't passing.

BUT none of this is to say I don't think this is a stupid practice. If there are kids who want to bring their grades up and are demoralized by very low grades, I'd have no problem with some sort of "repayment" plan being developed for them. The (motivated to seek this out) student and the teacher(s) would agree how much work/to what standard would need to be done to get the grade to at least passing. They could sign off on these agreements and then stick to them.

Individual agreements like this would also solve the problem of A and B students carefully figuring out how many assignments they can skip entirely and still maintain their grade under this policy.

Anonymous said...

The BOE authorized at their January 21st meeting, 2 summer school sites - Brashear and Peabody. The total cost is approximately $415,000. Underclassmen (with 85% course attendance) will pay $50.00 per each half credit make-up course. "Twelfth grade students who have not met proficiency requirements or completed the graduation project will have the opportunity to complete their graduation requirements to receive their diplomas free of charge." Talk about enabling and more tax dollars going down the drain. Also, I know from experience that many students like to attend summer school because it is easier than regular school. The student achievement center also houses 5th year seniors making up credits to graduate. Do suburban schools operate like this? What does this teach our students? We aren't preparing them for the real world. And the automatic 50% feeds right into this mentality.

Anonymous said...

PPSParent, you are attempting to twist realities. Sorry, you will have to pedal your baloney elsewhere.

The point remains that bleeding hearts like Dr.Barnett would go looking for reasons that contribute to the achievement gap when the entire issue begins in the home. The point remains that the district has more black kids than white kids. The fact remains that PSSA scores at low achieving schools generally have extremely poor scores coming from black kids upon further review. You will forgive me for saying that the district is bending over backwards to hand free grades to students in closing that gap.

And the achievement gap also takes into account graduation rates, drop out rates and at most every school--breakdowns of students ARE the norm--whether it is what percentages are in CAS, AP and PSP programs, honor roll rates and grades in general. To ignore what teachers are subject to is folly and as usual, that is your method of response.

"I also question from the original post the comment about kids who do nothing ever passing -- a 50% isn't passing."

Yeah, that's wonderful thinking. That means that in your mind, we are talking about students who do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING EACH TIME. How about this, thanks to the policy student are wise enough to pick and choose what they do. MOST kids who pass because of this insane policy have done a few assignments. As such, the accumulated 50%'s push them over the D barrier and often into the C range. Your question is inane.

"If there are kids who want to bring their grades up and are demoralized by very low grades, I'd have no problem with some sort of "repayment" plan being developed for them."

How nice of you. What do you say to honest students who work hard, put in extra time and effort just to get by? Where is your sense of fairness?

T"he (motivated to seek this out) student and the teacher(s) would agree how much work/to what standard would need to be done to get the grade to at least passing. They could sign off on these agreements and then stick to them."

So you are proposing having different sets of standards within the classroom for different types of students. You are applauding the recipe for disaster.

"Individual agreements like this would also solve the problem of A and B students carefully figuring out how many assignments they can skip entirely and still maintain their grade under this policy."

Amazing. Simply incredible. Individual agreements? Most of my classes have 30 kids. The "smaller" ones have 25 or 27. "Individual agreements"???

Parent, it is incredible that there are adults who think like you. Do yourself a favor before writing what amounts to another embarrassing post---get out of your wonderful little world and visit a comprehensive high school like Oliver---and then come back and make your comments. Until then, I can only view what you have to say as being irrelevant and badly out of touch with reality.

Questioner said...

PLEASE can we leave out the unnecessary racial references. If the district is handing out free grades it is handing them out to white students as well as black- there are PLENTY of low achieving white students.

And again there is no reason to make Dr. Barnett an issue- it is very possible that some schools have higher rates of teacher absences than others. The fact that she is looking into this question says nothing about her views on the 50% minimum.

Anonymous said...

Questioner, your comment is well taken even if it is off base somewhat. This is a quote from Barnett's commentary:
"What Dr. Gamrat’s research fails to report are the critical disparities that exist in those schools with high populations of African American students as opposed to those schools and programs with majority white student populations. I respectfully would like this administration to study this issue. And, under the RIGHT TO KNOW ACT, the NAACP is requesting information regarding the following: 1. Number of students in each building

2. Number of professionals and non-professionals servicing these students

3. Information regarding the collective number of days missed by both professionals and non-professionals in each building due to lost time—regardless of the reason absent."

Again Questioner, it's always easiest to blame teachers. I would never pretend to excuse a teacher who takes numerous days off without reason, but to call this a determining factor again looks to play the blame game when the reality is pretty simple, if not politically correct.

I will refrain from making comment on what Dr.Barnett is obviously driving at. Please re-read her thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree teacher. This is out of whack. And I think most teachers simply want their kids do excel, regardless of color. It's sad that issues are constantly pounded and thrown at us when achieving is the ultimate issue. I keep re-visiting the grading policy and still wonder what the logic is behind it. It's helping kids to pick and choose what assignments to do and what not to do rather than the kid who feels buried in a class. It's a misfire.

Thanks to Pure Reform for this marvelous site. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Apologies to PPSParent and Questioner. In re-reading my comments, I could see how they sound a little harsh. My sincere apologies. That was not the intent.
At the end of the day, I love kids. I could care less about color...we are all God's children. I simply have come to believe that we spend more time on placing blame than upon devising worthwhile fixes. I don't have the answers, either.

Questioner said...

Thank you Anonymous 3:39!

Anonymous 3:33, I'm not sure blaming teachers is the point- lost time may for example be caused by meetings or training days. And while achievement may begin at home- and there is certainly more that the district can do to encourage, validate and support parents' efforts- other factors may also come into play and deserve attention.

PPSparent said...

Thank you for the comment Anon!

I wanted to post one more time that I *don't* agree with the 50% policy, as I stated before. Kids that do nothing should not get credit (nor do I like that now all students are playing a game of figuring out what they do and don't have to do).

However, I do feel that we shouldn't write all kids off and can afford to offer some help to a student that truly wants to climb out of a hole they've dug. There could be limits on how often this was done, for how many classes, etc. Not extra credit, either, but the actual substantive work of the class.

I will never stop complaining about these issues always coming down to race, though! Especially when these remarks are coming from teachers. There are high and low achievers in each race, polite and friendly and rude and obnoxious, motivated and totally unmotivated kids in each race.

And while I agree that home influence is terribly important the truth is that we have to find a way past that -- that's something that should have been the basis of NCLB rather than say, the development of completely different state tests.

Questioner said...

Since each state is handling NCLB in its own way, our state COULD choose to make it a priority for districts to work with families from very early on through the school years. That would be preferable to spending effort noting that some students are making a year's progress as they go from below basic for in one grade to below basic the next year.

As to the 50%- as a compromise, maybe the students who do nothing on an assigment, or show no real effort, should not get the benefit of this rule. A high school level should represent some reasonable level of effort or else it devalues the diploma for everyone.

Questioner said...

Sorry, that should say "A high school diploma should represent some reasonable level of effort..."

PPSparent said...

NCLB only left the *test* up to each state. And that's where most of the money went -- for states to create, test, etc. their own tests and administer them each year.

Though most all states are seeing improvements on scores on their own tests, nationally given tests haven't seen the same increases during the time frame.

Anonymous said...

Parent, I want to tell you that your comment is how I have conducted my career:
"However, I do feel that we shouldn't write all kids off and can afford to offer some help to a student that truly wants to climb out of a hole they've dug."

I agree 100% and in this regard, I have to wonder sometimes about teachers who see student achievement as being concrete where grading policies are concerned. It's a different era now and kids come to you with many different issues. In honesty, you have to change with the times and the kids.

Here's my problem with the 50% policy. In itself, it was meant to give hope to the kid who has found himself buried and went into shutdown mode across the board. That is, he has decided to do nothing. Parent, I think he is the type of student you are talking about and whom the administration devised the policy for. Here's the problem....the policy has been corrupted by the kind of kid who sees this as an opportunity. Get a few D's here and there, do some homework, take a test and pass and voila, I cruise over a D or C grade with the policy. I would say most teachers see this policy as a blessing for that type of kid---the one who will now pick and choose what to do and the one who merely wants to graduate. He's not worried about honor rolls or the like.

This policy is rewarding laziness and apathy more than anything else.

You also make this salient point:

"I will never stop complaining about these issues always coming down to race, though! Especially when these remarks are coming from teachers. There are high and low achievers in each race, polite and friendly and rude and obnoxious, motivated and totally unmotivated kids in each race."

Nothing could be more on target than the second part of your statement. Achievers and non achievers come in every form and in every color. My thought is that the process generally begins in the home, but that's another story. But parent, here's my thing about the first part of your thought: however much I look at the kids as being equal, as simply being people, as being children I am to move forward to the best of my abilities, some other party will force me to see color. That's disappointing, as I wasn't raised that way nor do I conduct my personal life that way. Instead of narrowing the achievement gap, why not talk about moving all kids forward? Instead of making mention about how teacher absences hurt the performance of kids who are at schools in predominantly African American areas, why not talk about how the absences--when as large as has been listed here--hurts all children? When looking at PSSA scores, why not focus on the entire class at a given school rather than breaking it down so as to be divisive.

We both know that this is not the way the game is played these days. It seems to me that those not in the classroom--regardless of race--do more to force us all to see color than otherwise.

Again, I don't have the answers. I wish I did. I simply don't feel the current policy is aiding who it was intended to aid.

Thanks for your comments, as well as the comments of Questioner. This is thought provoking, to say the least. Sadly, I tend to see education as being a wheel that is spinning in place, with no hopes of moving forward.

Anonymous said...

Two points:
1. Basically in the PPS, any student can show up (attendance standard) as a living, breathing body and pass a class maybe even with as high as a C grade. Also, remember that the attendance policy has many "exceptions" to it, and too often, unfortunately, it is the parents working the system to enable their children. The system creates headaches for teachers when grades are due. Often times it is just easier to pass the student, or give the higher grade rather than fighting city hall.

2. The CAS students know how to work the system. If you don't think some of them also take advantage of the automatic 50%, you are being fooled.

PPSparent said...

Anon 10:28

I'm not sure who you are arguing with -- I haven't seen anyone say that they think this is a good policy, and I (and others) have already repeatedly pointed out your second point -- that A and B students, regardless of what kind of classes they take, are using this policy to avoid work.

I wouldn't be reading here if I thought everything in the district was perfect or even good enough. However, I'm interested in three things:

1) not throwing out what's good currently just to have change
2) coming up with positive/innovative/realistic ideas for problems that we all see and that do need change
3) having the voices of parents, teachers and the community heard by the board and administration

Questioner said...

As a start- the proposals discussed in the new post "Public Hearing Responses" may help parents and the community to be heard. It seems that most teachers are not comfortable expressing views publicly though.

solutionsRus said...

I would like to commend the anonymous poster that reread his/her comment and amended his/her tone regarding the subject of race. This type of thoughtful reflection represents the best of what happens in an open dialogue.

The subject of race is one that is not easily discussed. Name calling, sarcasm and insults do nothing to solve any problems. The term "politically correct" is used as a pejorative for people who are trying to be sensitive to cultural, racial and gender differences. The term "bleeding heart" is used to describe people that have empathy for people less fortunate then themselves by people who are not able to feel that same empathy. Let's leave labeling out of the discussion.

The achievement gap and unequal educational opportunities in our city schools is most strongly linked to poverty. Go into Appalachia and the same issues that we have here regarding education of poor minorities will be the same for poor white students.

No one is denying that education starts in the home. Of course it does. So the question is, how can we as a society help poor parents understand this and provide them with the tools that they need to grow healthy, productive citizens. Do we just throw our hands up and say "Well, some parents just don't value education, so too bad for their children"? Or do we reach out to our less fortunate brothers and sisters so that they can possibly know the benefits of education and a better place in their worlds?

I am dismayed by the sometimes all or nothing attitudes of people regarding the subject of our schools. No one is blaming all teachers and only teachers for the problems in our schools. I have seen outstanding, hardworking teachers in the PPS, but for every one of those, I have seen ineffective, lazy teachers as well. We all know they are out there (just like there are horrible doctors, lawyers, artists and plumbers). Let's not put all teachers on a pedestal and admit that some teachers are ONE PART of the problem. The issues with public education are multifaceted and blaming any one group (parents, teachers, administration, school board, students) is shortsighted. But acknowledging that each one of these groups has problems to be solved and working towards a solution is, in my opinion, the only way to go.

Anonymous said...

Go Solutions R Us!

Anonymous said...

solutionsRus - You have an excellent idea. Now how do we get all the different stakeholders together and have them LISTEN to one another? That is the key. Everyone must work TOGETHER for the good of PPS. One faction can't work only for their own agenda.