August 02, 2007

I didn't do squat -- now give me a passing grade!

Rhymes With Right links to a NY Times story where a teacher was overruled by an administrator regarding the changing of a student's grade:

Mr. Lampros’s introduction to the high school’s academic standards proved a fitting preamble to a disastrous year. It reached its low point in late June, when Arts and Technology’s principal, Anne Geiger, overruled Mr. Lampros and passed a senior whom he had failed in a required math course.

That student, Indira Fernandez, had missed dozens of class sessions and failed to turn in numerous homework assignments, according to Mr. Lampros’s meticulous records, which he provided to The New York Times. She had not even shown up to take the final exam. She did, however, attend the senior prom.

Through the intercession of Ms. Geiger, Miss Fernandez was permitted to retake the final after receiving two days of personal tutoring from another math teacher. Even though her score of 66 still left her with a failing grade for the course as a whole by Mr. Lampros’s calculations, Ms. Geiger gave the student a passing mark, which allowed her to graduate.

Ms. Geiger declined to be interviewed for this column and said that federal law forbade her to speak about a specific student’s performance. But in a written reply to questions, she characterized her actions as part of a “standard procedure” of “encouraging teachers to support students’ efforts to achieve academic success.”

My emphasis. I cannot begin to express what a complete buffoon this woman is. I am happy that Lampros decided to make a stink out of this, as that is precisely what I would do. Lampros did have sort of an indication of what he was getting into, however, as detailed by the school's grading policy:

He took particular note of the stipulation that a student who attended class even once during a semester, who did absolutely nothing else, was to be given 45 points on the 100-point scale, just 20 short of a passing mark.

Let's see, what's an appropriate adjective here? "Ridiculous"? "Ludicrous"?

To make matters worse, Fernandez's mother exemplifies the attitude of way too many parents these days:

“My daughter earned everything she got,” she said. Of Mr. Lampros, she said, “He needs to grow up and be a man.”

That's right, Mrs. Fernandez. Your daughter earned a solid "F." Not what she was given by the preposterous "generosity" of Ms. Geiger. And Mr. Lampros' masculinity is not in dispute. What is is your ability to be a parent. I mean, check it:

Mr. Lampros recalled one comment that Mrs. Fernandez made during their meeting about why it was important for Indira to graduate. She couldn’t afford to pay for her to attend another senior prom in another senior year.

Fortunately, I have never encountered a situation where my principal (or other administrator) demanded that I change a student's grade. In fact, they have been most supportive of my decisions in the [few] instances where there has been some sort of dispute. Admittedly, I do not even know if admins. are allowed to change a grade without a teacher's permission. That's the case in Texas, as Greg at RWR notes in his post -- that is, admins. cannot change a grade without a teacher's OK. Probably the most memorable example of a parent berating me about her kid's grade was very early in my career; mom was upset that the 50% her child had earned got him a grade of "F." She asked, "But can't he get credit for the work he has done?" My reply was, "He has gotten credit. 50%." She still didn't get why this was an "F." And, unfortunately across the US, there are too many administrators who feel likewise -- that virtually any work done by a student warrants at least a passing grade. They believe that failing grades "discourage" students. This was perfectly exemplified years ago here in Delaware during the Adele Jones saga.

Jones was a math teacher in Delaware's Indian River District. The claim was that "she failed too many students." She ended up being fired, but was reinstated when a judge ruled that her due process rights were violated. But the telling item is when this story was told on one of the big networks' news magazine shows ("Dateline" it may have been, if memory serves). One of Jones' administrators came right out and said it: "Bad grades do not motivate students." I was completely flummoxed. In other words, a teacher should not assign a "bad grade" (usually meaning a "D" or "F") to a student -- no matter what the lack of performance -- because "it won't motivate him/her." Hell, Jones should have argued that poor performance reviews and worse, her firing, "don't/wouldn't motivate HER to do better"! You can see just how pathetically ridiculous this all becomes.

What happens when these students (like Lampros' and Jones') move on to the REAL WORLD? It doesn't look pretty.

Posted by Hube at August 2, 2007 12:03 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I thought students earned grades rather than teachers giving grades....

I'm betting the lack of administrative support and the conveyor belt mentality of instruction aren't motivating Mr Lampro or the other teachers of that school to achieve success in teaching, either.

Posted by: Anna Venger at August 2, 2007 12:36 PM

"Bad grades do not motivate students."

no, but good parents do...

Posted by: Duffy at August 2, 2007 02:43 PM

"Mr. Lampros recalled one comment that Mrs. Fernandez made during their meeting about why it was important for Indira to graduate. She couldn’t afford to pay for her to attend another senior prom in another senior year."

BANG!!![sound of reader's head crashing into keyboard]

Posted by: jason330 at August 2, 2007 04:51 PM

I can't tell you how much this annoys me. Personal responsibility is nil. Dang, my Dad would have had my b**t over this.

Another time. A better time, if you ask me.

Posted by: Shirley Vandever at August 2, 2007 08:02 PM

Did Shirley just asterisk the "u" and first "t" in "butt?"

Shirley, doll...say it ain't so!!

Posted by: Mike Matthews at August 2, 2007 10:08 PM

Hopefully this outrageous tale is anecdotal!

Posted by: Perry Hood at August 3, 2007 09:48 AM

I was one of those dreaded teaching fellows at Tulsa University in the mid '70s responsible for basic 3-D form design and beginning ceramics. In my second term as instructor, the athletic department saw fit to enroll two of the football players into my class -- who didn't see fit to attend class much, and didn't see fit to do anything when they did show up.

I failed both of them. To the credit of my advising professor and department head, he stood up for me and made sure those marks held. At 120 lbs and looking like I was 16 instead of 25, those 300 pounders were pretty intimidating.

Funny, we never had to deal with anymore jocks being sent into beginning art classes after that.

Posted by: okie at August 8, 2007 11:52 AM