Sunday, 3 March 2013

WHAT DOES AN "A" GRADE MEAN?

You know, an "A" grade used to mean more than it does today. If you got an "A" you had a superior amount of knowledge. An "A" was hard to achieve.Our honor roll used to be a few really top notch kids- now the honor roll takes half the page in the newspaper. So what does an "A" mean?

If your child gets "A's" does that mean he/she is going to a very good school or has a wonderful teacher or is getting a wonderful education? In a word, NO it does not. Are grades possibly being used to manipulate the public- propagandize them that they have good schools? It's very possible that grades ARE being used as part of the massive public relations effort that is attached to school reform.BUT THE TEACHER CAN GIVE ANYONE AN "A" IF HE/SHE WANTS TO. I KNOW teachers are under a lot of pressure not to give "D's" and "F's"- even in college (my daughter teaches at a college)!!These days bad grades are seen as the teachers fault- and teachers are under pressure to pass everyone and to hand out good grades like candy- it keeps the parents happy. But as I said before, good grades definitely do not mean that any of your students are learning much or that you have a good school.

I was at a school board meeting here in Helena the other day, at our CR Anderson middle school. Here in Helena we have what I call "dog and pony" shows where the principal of each school is required to get up and put on a show for the school board once a year, not necessarily to tell the truth, just to pretend that all these programs that come in on the grants are successful. These "dog and pony" shows take a lot of the teachers' and principal's time that COULD be used for kids, and are basically a feel good show for school board members "see, school reform is working and what a good job we are doing!!". HA HA. Sorry to all those people that like to say "don't be negative"- but let's just be truthful- our schools are in trouble and Common Core is set to completely destroy the traditional education that built this nation.That's saying more than it looks like- when you lose a system you may never regain it. And you have to look at what is replacing it- Common Core that tears out traditional literature teaching and instead of teaching children what is RIGHT and good has them struggle with open ended questions in a zoo like atmosphere- training them to question everything and put it right with leftist ideas that have never been good OR right,but back to the board meeting.One of the teachers mentioned what we have come to know as "grade inflation". Yes, they are preparing MIDDLE SCHOOL students for the ACT college entrance exam that you normally take as a junior in high school. She said they are doing this because these tests take on more importance now as colleges don't pay so much attention to grades- in other words- the grades are pretty meaningless.

I was really disappointed and yes, shocked, to learn that the middle school that my children attended, this very same CR Anderson, has 35% of its students NOT PROFICIENT in math!!Twenty-nine percent are NOT PROFICIENT in english!!They have lots of "A" students but more than one third of their student body aren't even average- proficient- in english and math. The principal was trying to make all this look good- he even put in a new category "almost proficient", so things wouldn't look as bad as they really were- kind of like when you were a kid and you didn't say you were eight- you were ALMOST nine! How do you put a good face on that your school hasn't met AYP (adequate yearly progress) in math in SIX YEARS and hasn't made adequate yearly progress in english for FOUR YEARS? You talk gibberish about a lot of programs and the board goes away happy ( one program they talked about - if you really listened- services 18 students and they spend most of their time "silent reading"!!). It must have worked because a few days later a board member was extolling that CR Anderson had made so much progress!!

The sad thing is that as they talked about this school that is failing- they talked about the program where the 8th graders leave school once a month to go to the elementary schools and take those kids out of class for the "Buddy program" where they go bowling and things like that. NOT ONE BOARD MEMBER QUESTIONED THE EFFICACY OF TAKING KIDS OUT OF CLASS WHEN WE ARE OBVIOUSLY STRUGGLING WITH ACADEMICS!!!NOT ONE BOARD MEMBER QUESTIONED WHAT THE BUDDY PROGRAM ACCOMPLISHES. THESE PROGRAMS GO ON YEAR AFTER YEAR AND THERE IS NO TRACKING OF PROGRESS. I don't even know what they THINK they are accomplishing with the Buddy program.

The superintendent here in Helena wants to spend an additional $800,000.00 on another program, Star Math. They had Star Math when I taught seven years ago. I mentioned that we had only one computer and how do you do a computer based math program with only one computer? He said they were "working on that". Hunh? You're investing $800,000.00 in software and getting the computers later?? I then mentioned that we had FOUR math programs to teach, all with different teaching philosophies- higher level thinking (TURK), hands on (Math A Way Of Thinking) drill and practice (STAR) and the book which incorporated all three.Maybe we should have one program so we could have consistency and focus that required accountability and would give the teacher a chance to teach one program well? They passed me by like the onlooker at the speed way ( though our assistant superintendent did say he agreed with me). I mentioned all the out of seat time- kids can't do academics because they're always eating breakfast or exercising or doing Dare or the Buddy program or the MBI program or the Artist in Residency program or gardening or community service- to name a few.I suggested corralling all these programs and trying to stream line kids time so that they have more time on academics- they passed me by like the Bullet train. It seems clear to me that a common sense approach to reaching academic excellence is not in the cards here. It's about programs and money.

SO- IF YOUR KIDS ARE GETTING "A's" don't assume they're learning a lot. They may be doing better than some of the other students- but how bad are the other students doing? What is really being taught? What does your child know and understand? Good Luck- if it were me I guess I'd be doing a lot of home schooling.

4 comments:

  1. In Lewistown, grade school kids take several days off each year to go . . . wait for it . . . skiing.

    The teachers at one of the grade schools were about to revolt. "We can't make our AYP as it is, and you are taking even more instruction time away from us?"

    "But . . ." the principal explained, "it's just so much FUN!"

    ReplyDelete
  2. iwillmakethechangesthatyouwouldnot13 June 2013 at 00:11

    I graduated from Helena High as a Valedictorian. I saw in one of your more recent posts that you greatly commended a woman named Gabby for being a Valedictorian as well. She clearly worked very hard and I commend her as well, as I know just how very hard it can be to maintain grades and willpower in that way. However, I believe she earned your applause only because of her will to serve the nation in the future? Oh well. That's not the point. The point is, so many classes have different levels of what an A grade is. In AP classes, one is expected to have complete and thorough understanding of topics, be able to formulate discussions and arguments, and know, generally, most of the material. In these classes, one can be graded upon tests and, uncommonly, busy work, but mainly upon discussion and understanding of material, rather than just rote memorization of facts, names, and dates. In AP classes, a B (or I believe a C) is equivalent to an A in a regular/non-honors class. The problem with this grading is that it gives incredibly intelligent kids the opportunity to get better grades that their peers by taking easier and non-honors courses. I think you just alienated a large portion of high school students. High school students who take AP classes and are very gifted who get As deserve them. Students who slack of in regular classes and get As do not. But there is another group still. There is the group who may struggle in a certain teacher's class because of the teaching style, or who may have slight learning disabilities, or who has an incredibly hard home life, or who has to work an outside job, or who is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, and so on. These kids work incredibly hard to get As in their classes, and even though they may not have the extensive knowledge of some of their peers, the grading system is based off of the work students put into their schooling, not just their knowledge. More and higher quality work= higher grades. More intelligent students do not necessarily get better grades, especially if they stop caring about school. Grades are about effort, some knowledge/understanding of course material, and participation. Most kids work very hard to get As in their classes, and many stress themselves out to the point of stress related illness and panic attacks. If you say that these students don't deserve As because they are not up to the "standard" they used to be, then I would like to see how much work and of what quality you would be willing to do in comparison to what many students do. But that may be a problem, as you'd have to truly work for something instead of just complaining in CAPS LOCKS about how the education system is tyrannous and lecturing the school board on how not to try running their schools.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I ran for the school board twice and lost- as did my husband and a host of other conservatives. The union seems to control the vote - too bad. You can't make positive changes when you don't have the power. I think I have stated over and over again that in seat time instead of agendas would actually improve academics.

    ReplyDelete