Nixon's Memoirs: Ok, here I am

Monday, November 14, 2005

Ok, here I am

My mother visited this past weekend, which took my attention away from the computer (as it should be) and set me even further behind.

Okay, it's old news now I know, but the recent report on schools that "inflate" grades has been on my mind. As the spouse of a school teacher, I have sort of an inside track as to what goes on, at least in her experience. The problem being addressed is that students are making good grades in class, and then performing below average on standardized tests such as the PSAT/NMSQT, ACT, etc. Students are graduating from high school with 4.0 GPA's (and higher for AP students) and then getting to colleges and having to take REMEDIAL classes.

Here's the problem. From what I've heard, it's not the teachers inflating the grades. Teachers want to give the grade that the child has earned, and though they are often quite lenient with time frames, legibility, etc., they still have standards to maintain! Many students are on what is known as a "504" plan, which requires teachers to develop an "Individual Educational Program" (IEP) for each student with identified learning disabilities. These IEP's can be as simple as allowing more time to complete the work, allowing the use of reference materials, calculators, etc. Or even require the teacher to not count off for things such as grammar or spelling. The result is little Timmy or Tammy turns in a torn page of monkey scrawl and the teacher has to give them an "A" for it.

In addition to the "IEP", it seems to be a growing trend, at the last two schools where my wife has taught, one of which is on the "needs improvement" list, if a parent(s)/guardian(s) of ANY student, 504 or not, comes in and complains about a grade, and the teacher refuses to change it, they then go to the administration, who asks the teacher to change it, and then changes it themselves if the teacher refuses.

How is it possible for a student in ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP) classes to wind up needing remediation in college? How about if AP teachers are instructed by the administration to "dumb down" their criteria AND curriculum in order to get more minority students into and to pass AP classes? I find that to be insulting to both the teacher, and minority students!

For a reality check here, I graduated from high school with a 2.7 GPA, yes I was a lazy little Nixon. I went to OU and continued my lazy ways, but NEVER needed a remedial class! I got my degree (minus tooth skin) and consider myself to be of slightly above-average intelligence.

But now, with notable exceptions of course, I see some students who are far below their grade level and are well on their way to becoming a drain on the economy. A student on the bus at my wife's previous school was doing an assigned reading of "The Red Badge of Courage." I had also been assigned this book in school (in 8th grade) so I asked him what class it was for. "AP English III" he replied.

ZOINKS! During my sophomore year, I was reading "An American Tragedy" for crying out loud!

My overall point is that if we continue to "dumb down" our schools just to make everyone feel good about themselves, we're going to end up with some very dumb people in power! Looking around at the present leadership (in general, not specifying anyone) I don't think we can afford to lose any more IQ points, people!

I'm reminded of a story I heard where a school took twenty random students from the general school population, and told the teacher that she was getting the top 20 students in the school to teach. She was highly excited, and took extra effort to come up with the most challenging material she could for her class. At the end of the year, her 20 students were in fact the top 20 students in the school! The teacher was then given the student's ACTUAL transcripts from previous years (she had been given faked ones to start.) Imagine if every teacher (and administrator) actually respected and believed in their students enough to challenge them and make them earn a grade rather than just hand one to them?

Is it any wonder that companies are sending tutors into the classroom? Is it any wonder that the owner of the largest media outlet in Oklahoma essentially BOUGHT the College of Journalism at OU? (It is now named after the man.)

We as educators, administrators, parents, and citizens of our community must see to it that our children receive the BEST education possible!


At 6:44 PM, Blogger kel said...

Braden is on an IEP for medical but even with that I really think that some IEP's are overused and they are truly not helping the child but in essence giving a grade that the child learns he or she didnt have to earn

At 6:52 PM, Blogger Middle_America said...

Glad to see you back Nixon. Missed your blogging. Your the only original one I started and linked with way back, now, when I started blogging.

Anyway, I do have a concern of the abuse with IEP's. They are good for their purposes, but like everything can be abused.

At 6:43 AM, Blogger Circa Bellum said...

My first exposure to this was when my daughter graduated high school with very good grades. She's very smart and I'm not saying that just because...

She did an essay for entrance to college and ran it by a professor friend who was good enough and honest enough to point out that in her AP classes in HS, they had never bothered to teach her the proper way to write a paper.

It's sad. No child left behind is a sick joke if you ask me. I know, you didn't, but we should be placing more emphasis on academics and accountability.

At 7:51 PM, Blogger laurie said...

a lot of my aunts and uncles work in public education and i don't believe i have heard a single positive thing about the no child left behind program.

i'm thankful i graduated when i did, both high school and college. i think i learned more then than i would have learned if i was in school 10 years later.

At 1:22 AM, Blogger Dawn Penguin said...

Yet another good reason to homeschool!


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