Eliminating the 'F' won't eliminate failure
Regarding the Nov. 14 front-page article “West Potomac High pushes F off the grade book”:
I wish West Potomac well on its initiative to increase learning, but I am skeptical.
First, labeling poor achievement as “F,” “I” for incomplete or even “GREAT” probably won’t change anything. The labeling shift will be transparent to students, teachers and parents, and low-achieving students are skilled at developing excuses for low performance.
Second, real progress requires teachers, counselors and parents to encourage students and to enforce high standards. For the most part, this must be accomplished through individual interactions, which means small classes and perhaps teacher overtime for Saturday or after-school sessions. But we are in a period of fiscal austerity, with school systems cutting, not expanding. Many struggling students do not have strong parental support, and schools can do little to construct this essential part of high student achievement.
Third, I agree that “late is better than never,” and I give my students credit for late submissions and opportunities to correct quizzes (a second opportunity to learn material). The idea that we don’t care when students learn, however, is foolish; most high school courses are cumulative, and learning late means that students are unable to understand fully the current lessons. Think of an airline pilot learning to land in a crosswind after she is piloting a 747 full of passengers. Timeliness matters.
The writer is a teacher in the Fairfax County Public Schools.
Thomas Kinder, Springfield
| November 16, 2010; 6:51 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax County, HotTopic, education, schools
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