Friday, February 23, 2007

An "A" for effort, an "F" for reality

Credit Joanne Jacobs (blogroll right) for first nailing me to the story.
Surprise, your kids aren't prepared for college and the high school diploma is worth less and less. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, high school Seniors are graduating at a higher rate, but their reading and math skills are failing to catch up. In fact, only 35% of graduating Seniors are considered "proficient" readers, something that is sort of necessary if you have any chance in college.
What does this mean?

The report itself cited grade inflation and changes in grading standards as possible explanations for the apparent contradiction of increasing grade point averages and declining reading scores.
Grade inflation and lower standards? You don't say. I'll tell you that here in Ukiah, the rate of kids that actually graduate from a 4 year university is about 7-8% of a single Senior class. I'll also tell you that I don't quite understand how all the Seniors manage to graduate......actually, I'll tell that I do understand how they graduate, and teachers are pretty pressured to pass kids that don't deserve a diploma. However, guess what, it isn't the administrators that pressure you. In fact, I've never been pressured to pass a kid by an administrator. I've been told many times, "You are the teacher of record. If you have been fair and consistent, you know best." Nope, the people that pressure teachers to grade inflate are the same idiots that want accountability for student learning, the ever-so-knowledgeable American public. Yes, that is you I'm talking about.
See, while you people are constantly raving about kids not knowing how to read, you refuse to read to your kids. Then, when we ask that kids bring books to school to read, you look the other way because school should be teaching your kid how to read, not making them read. And of course, when we discipline your kid, you throw a tantrum about the raving Neo-fascists that teachers think they are (you get that here in Mendocino County) because kids shouldn't be disciplined for not following the rules, especially those about reading. And God forbid your kid fails, because even though the students should be held more accountable for their own education, that rule does not apply to your 'graduating Senior'.
I don't inflate grades. In fact, I'm in a department that pretty much loathes the idea of grade inflation. Double in-fact, I tell my Intro students that when they finish Government and Economics, they will have earned a walk in that graduation line while listening to "Pomp and Circumstance". Of course, that also means that others will find a different way out, and simply get around the idea of accountability for their own grades. I lose students to IEP's, 504's, Directed Study, Independent Study, Charter Schools, the GED, you name it, parents will find an excuse to make sure their kid will graduate, all the while demanding that teachers do more to get students to learn.
When society gets serious about education, then education will get better. We can only do so much. But for the love of God, to all teachers out there, make the diploma worth something. Don't inflate grades.
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