Third quarter grades were due today, and as I finished entering them, I couldn’t help but notice the big picture for a lot of students. Days like this are sobering and discouraging.
Here are two screen shots from my computer, showing what we’re working with here.
First, this is a transcript page for a girl in one of my classes. As you can see, after three full semesters in high school, she has earned exactly two credits, including a half credit in the middle of a semester for something called “guidance.” She also failed every class this quarter. The large numbers indicate absences. Notice also that she is listed as a tenth grader, even though she falls far short of being on track–our politicians recently decided to let every student be officially promoted by age with their friends, rather than measured by the credits they’ve earned. Thanks, leaders!
Obviously, this kid is not going to graduate. I don’t know why she even comes to school, why we haven’t guided her to another school option or made her more uncomfortable as she slacks her way toward failure, or what’s going on in her home that makes such rampant failure acceptable. (Her father is an educated professional; her mother is a homemaker.)
This second shot just shows grades for the first quarter and semester of this year for a young man I know. As you can see, he rarely misses school, but fails every class (as he also did in the third quarter which just ended). He also gets plenty of low marks in citizenship (“U” means “unacceptable”). This boy also is almost halfway through high school and so far behind that there is no realistic way he’ll graduate–no matter what any well-intentioned bleeding heart tells you, even though a lot of kids end up trying to “turn around,” it’s very rare to go from years of doing maybe 10% of work to suddenly doing the 120% they need to make up lost ground and keep up what’s left. Most fail anyway, and I think we do them a disservice by holding out the hope that they can just sit around and be fine.
I’ve long thought that we need to make a new rule that kids who let themselves get behind by a certain amount need to be expelled–for their own good and everyone else’s (the vast majority of discipline problems come from kids like this). Sometimes the kindest, most loving thing you can do for someone is to kick them in the butt and tell them to wake up. Of course, such a sensible measure would never work–after all, as I just noted, our politicians now endorse social promotion. Kids like this have no reason to change.
Not that this kid wants to make any change, anyway. Why should he? What’s his incentive? His life is perfectly fun as it is. His mother shipped him out here this year to live with his dad, but even he admits that the kid is beyond anyone’s influence.
Surely, you say, he’s stacking the deck here. These are the worst of the worst kids. Yes, I admit, but I could easily give you two dozen more examples from my rosters exactly like them, and that’s just off the top of my head. (Does the rest of the public really think that failure like this is because every teacher, every year, is falling horrifically short in their job?) Are these special ed kids? Nope. Neither has any documented disability–they’re consciously choosing to fail. Are they minorities (who, undeniably, do far worse in school than others)? Wrong again–both of these kids, like most of my students, are white. Remember, I teach at one of the best public schools in the state.
Welcome to Las Vegas, welcome to Nevada, welcome to America, 2010.