How far should schools go to enable failing students to raise their grades?

The AJC had a news story on a report by Atlanta Public Schools on grade changing at its high schools.

AJC education reporter Molly Bloom wrote:

In some Atlanta high schools, student grades are commonly changed from failing to passing after students complete extra assignments or “remediation” work, according to an Atlanta Public Schools internal analysis released Friday.

The APS report details the 2,134 grade changes made last year. About 50 percent involved changing a numeric grade to a higher grade. About 25 percent were letter grades changed to numeric grades. And another 25 percent involved lowering grades.

The report found that grade changes due to “remediation” work were most common at two schools — Douglass High School and South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice, the school whose grade changes led to the district investigation.

“They had the largest number of cases where the use of remedial assignment, unit recovery, and mastery grading were employed to provide students additional time and opportunities to pass courses or improve low grades,” according to the report.

Records obtained by Channel 2 Action News under state public records laws show that in Atlanta high schools grades were sometimes changed months or years after the fact due to “remediation” work.

failingI discussed this question with two teachers, neither of whom worked for APS. I found different reactions.

One teacher supported changing grades in response to remediation or extra work by the student, even months after a class ended. She argued the goal ought to be educating students, not failing them. Why should it matter when students complete the work as long as they’re eventually successful and meet the requirements to pass?

Her main point: Does it matter if students reach the finish line on May 15 or Aug. 15? Just as there may be students who could wrap up an algebra course in six months, others may need 18 months, she said. Why do schools lock every student into the same schedule and same expectations?

Here’s why, contended the other teacher. That’s how the world works. There are deadlines. There are expectations.

It’s not helpful to let students raise their grades by turning in work months or years later, she said. Most students need the pressure of a fixed deadline to finish their assignments. Give students reprieves from those deadlines and schools will have 19-year-olds turning in 10th grade English papers, she warned.

What do you think?

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Reader Comments 0

83 comments
atln8tiv
atln8tiv

It's not uncommon these days for college students who fail a class to ask if there's any way they can do an extra assignment to make up the difference. They don't seem to understand the semester gives them weeks to complete their assignments, master the material, ask for help, etc. They seem to believe that if they didn't get it done during the semester, they can always do it later. No, sorry, you can't. 

I spent the semester teaching and giving assignments related to the course material so that students could receive assistance as necessary and master the work. But if a student skipped class, didn't pay attention or complete assignments on time or accurately, they risk wasting their opportunity to earn a good grade in the course. Suddenly, now at the end of the semester when they realize their grade will result in them losing financial aid, doing the work becomes a priority. Unfortunately, by then, it's too late. At some point, they have to be held accountable for their choices. Better here, than when their paycheck depends on it.

By the way, time management appears to be a serious issue for many of our students, as does a lack of organizational and communication skills, and the ability to follow instructions.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

If the point of the exercise is to certify that a student has mastered a given body of knowledge, then allow the additional work and the regrading.  The student is competing against him or herself to get to the next grade.


But, if the process amounts to not much more than an inoculation of instruction and regrading even if the material hasn't been mastered, then I have a problem with that.  The presence of significant numbers of socially promoted kids in a classroom Social promotion will slow down that class.  It's not fair to the kids being slowed down; and it's not fair to the kids who won't be able to build on previous work that never was learned.


The situation is different where there is competition among students for admission to more selective high schools or colleges. Regrading would amount to a second bite at the academic apple, but that competition is not taking place at the lower end to the grading scale where the regrading takes place.





readcritic
readcritic

Education is suffering because society fails to recognize that parents and children need to be responsible for their own learning.  Loss of vocational training (not all students are college material) and passing everyone is certainly not what is best for America and the taxpayer. Some students refuse to do the required work and disrupt others learning because they know they will be given chance after chance to do over and pass anyway. Taxpayers should not be paying for such children to have remediation classes and repeat grade levels two and three years over and over. If the child fails due to lack of effort, the parent should then pay for that child to repeat the year or have remediation. Administrators force teachers to reteach, accept late work, and pass everyone to make the graduation rate look good. Just check board policies at some small city schools. Grade changing and remediation programs are a joke. See what other successful countries do with their slackers.

anothercomment
anothercomment

Maureen let me guess one teacher was black and one was white. Or one was the graduate of a HBCU. I learned the hard way, ( and I am Yankee liberal ) do not hire graduates of HBCU's unless they have attended a Catholic High school or highly regarded ( white ) High School ( and were not the featured Athelete. Otherwise, you will 9/10 end of hiring a person who has only been trained aka coached into how to apply for a job, dress for the interview and interview, embellish the resume. Then is well versed in all aspects of filing EEO complaints, to muck things up. To avoid work that they have learned through APS, Dekalb, Clayton and Fulton to name a few districts to avoid, they will carry these traits over into the workforce. How to hide from work 101, must be a major at Albany State and North Carolina AT&T, and a few other HBCU's

What else would you expect if children are allowed months and years to remediate work.

On the other hand my child who has never scored lower than a comosite of 90 and has score 99% on Math several times was demanded that she come in for the CRCT, even though she had Mono and had a 6 week out of school infectious disease excuse. They demanded I bring her and had an individual teacher monitor her one section at a time, per day. After 4 sections I said enough, she is too sick. They wanted her test scores to bring up. The school. But wouldn't give her a break. On deadlines when we had a valid medical excuse. From an illnes the doctor said she contracted at school.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

This definitely falls under the heading of "You have to be cruel to be kind".


Coddle and infantilize students and they will sink to your level of expectation; challenge them and they will learn to RISE to the level of your expectations.


"Credit Recovery" , extra credit, etc.  send the wrong message to kids who will head out into a dog-eat-dog world after high school - it's abuse masquerading as concern and compassion.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@AlreadySheared  And of course credit recovery does wonders for quickly driving up the graduation rate without doing a thing to improve that aspect of the system that produced the students needing credit recovery in the first place.

Credit recovery is much like not bothering to fix the toaster; simple burn the toast and then scrape.

EastAtlanta
EastAtlanta

A passing grade should indicate that a student has achieved some level of mastery of a given subject. When grades are changed arbitrarily (that is, without the student having actually SHOWN a level of mastery) then a grade is meaningless. I am not opposed to programs that allow a student some extra time to re-take a test if in fact it is the goal of the teacher/administrator to have the student reach that level I mentioned. But where a principal sits down and changes grades of 25, 18, 46 to a 70, that is pure nonsense and does no one any good.

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

Students are already coming to college unable to write grammatically correct sentences with proper punctuation, perform basic math, or critical thinking. Enough already!


How many times have you observed an employee in his or her workplace that didn't offer good customer service? Maybe they didn't acknowledge your presence for several minutes, couldn't get your order right even though you gave it to them three times, couldn't give you correct change, or use critical thinking to answer their own questions?


I know I'm beginning to sound like an old fogey when I hear myself wondering what the future holds when our society has been so far dumbed-down that people who can't apply logic become responsible for making decisions that affect my life. Of course, then I look at congress and see that it's already happening. However, that's no consolation. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

It just occurred to me that maybe Teacher #1 was the one commenting on this blog.

class80olddog
class80olddog

This is the difference between REAL teachers and PC teachers. No. One is a PC teacher. No. Two is a real teacher. Unfortunately there are not many real teachers left. If a principal had told my sister to chage a grade, she would have told him exactly where he could go.

Christie_S
Christie_S

@class80olddog and back then, under tenure, she would have been safe to do so.  Tenure is a two-sided blade.

straker
straker

Do corporations suspect that this has now reached college level?


If so, is this their excuse for hiring foreign college graduates over American ones?

heyteacher
heyteacher

The logistics of "recovery" work with 150 students is a nightmare. The best solution I've seen is to send students who are behind to Saturday School or Night School or some kind of zero period to catch up but this takes money because you have to pay the teachers to run them. 

hssped
hssped

@class80olddog

Zero period is a class period held before school starts (before 1st period).  

booful98
booful98

@hssped @class80olddog At walton high school, you have to pay for that. The kids I know that take zero period do it so that they an have an extra class (usually an elective) or to get a "flex schedule" and leave earlier in the day. I am not sure if it is available for failing kids...but if it is, I doubt it would be free (you gotta pay the teachers for that time regardless)

class80olddog
class80olddog

"These are complex issues that should be decided and debated by the experts - teachers."

Spoken like a true edukrat who wants to protect their own turf and the status quo. People like these are driving the need for charters and vouchers.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Becca Leech @class80olddog "teachers as experts in our field,"

Listen to the teachers on this blog - they know what the problems are, but they are helpless because their administrators won't allow or help them address the problems.  Administrators have no gonads, they are politicians blowing in the wind - they won't stand up to parents and they won't stand up to their supervisors and Board members.  When they are told to produce good numbers, they do, by CHEATING.

Becca Leech
Becca Leech

@class80olddog @Becca Leech Please cite evidence that teachers are failing us. Is literacy falling? No. Overall educational attainment? No. ACT/SAT scores? No. Even overall IQ scores have steadily risen. Where are your collapsing buildings?

Becca Leech
Becca Leech

@class80olddog @Becca Leech I completely agree. My original point was that when lay people are encouraged (as in this article) to weigh in on complex subject matter that could be better informed by people with experience and research-based knowledge, politics is allowed to simplify complex issues into knee-jerk emotional decisions that interfere with effective education. The new focus on increasing standardized test scores is the result of disregarding the input of experienced educators, and is harming education.

booful98
booful98

@Becca Leech @class80olddog I am the daughter of a teacher and I used to agree with you. However, recent events have led me to believe that not a whole lot of teachers are interested in bettering education. Just look at how easily they were led to cheat by just a few hundred extra dollars.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Becca Leech @class80olddog Evidence?  There are 8000 "students" out there who have been cleared to receive a diploma, even though they cannot pass the GHSGT, a test that my kids referred to as "ridiculously easy".  One of those "students" had a 3.6 GPA from her school!  I will challenge all schools to give a "graduation test" consisting ot the Iowa Test of Educational Development and see where they fall.  The difference in today and yesterday is that in past years (the sixties) - if you didn't pass muster, you failed and dropped out.  A lot drop out now, but a lot are "graduated" without really knowing basic material.  My evidence is in the quality of job applicants - we now require applicants to fill out applications in our office, otherwise the ones who can't read and write take them home and get someone else to fill them out.

Becca Leech
Becca Leech

@class80olddog So you would question the building materials decisions made by an engineer? No, you would respect their expertise on the subject. The key problem we experience in education is the lack of respect for teachers as experts in our field, which your comment illustrates perfectly. This is why charters and vouchers continue to fail to our children, despite the myths perpetuated by non-experts.

bu2
bu2

@Becca Leech @class80olddog 


This particular topic is not something that is extraordinarily complex and needs a 4 year education degree.


It simply needs common sense.  Allowing work months afterwards serves no purpose other than just passing things on.  Some quick make-up may make sense.


I'm reminded of a line one of my roommates used on a professor to get more time.  "Who are you to put a time limit on my learning?"  Its ok to a point, but "months later" is carrying it to an extreme.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I don't think CHANGING a grade is ever appropriate - it is what it is and the grade should reflect what was done (unless it is a technical error on the teacher's part).  Remediation should occur in a different setting - give them the chance to learn what they did not learn the first time.

The economics?  If a student does not learn the material because they were absent excessively due to poor parenting, then the school has to PAY to send them another year because they are too lazy, or too PC to enforce the State of Georgia attendance requirements.

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

@class80olddog I believe it's only appropriate when the grade was calculated incorrectly to begin with.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

What I am concerned about is late work that is just busywork--does not show mastery.  I suspect there is too much of this.  That a student might take longer than a semester to master a subject would not be incredible, but we need to set it up in advance so that that is a possibility.  In other words, move the class that is not mastered (where there is some hope of mastery) to a credit-recovery mode where the student restudies and retakes the appropriate tests (not watered down, make-work).  But we must also be willing to admit that some kids need two full semesters of regular instruction to master a skill if their preliminary skills are poor.


Economic concerns are always put before other things, but in this case there should be severe concerns about a diploma being worth something.   We will pay for "graduating" students who have not actually shown the hard and soft skills they need to succeed.

heyteacher
heyteacher

@Wascatlady 

I agree -- but "credit recovery" requires $$ (see my other comment) so often the powers-that-be just put pressure on the teacher to take late work indefinitely. This is in high school, though -- I can see how giving students in elementary school extended time to complete the standards would be beneficial but again, when would you do this? The devil is always in the details.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady 

Hi, Wascatlady.  I would like to incorporate your first paragraph, above, regarding mastery and rate of learning, with your specific and tangible scheduling strategy offered, into my personal blog's entry entitled, "Mastery Learning," which I have often shared by link on "Get Schooled."

I would give you, as "Wascatlady," full credit for your words.  Is that okay with you?  I hope so, so that others can read of your scheduling suggestions over the months and years ahead. Excellent ideas. Best to you.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@heyteacher @Wascatlady Like MaryElizabeth, I was the SST leader at my school for a number of years.  That protocol seemed to work well to get struggling kids the help they needed in a shorter time.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady "We will pay for "graduating" students who have not actually shown the hard and soft skills they need to succeed."

Absolutely correct - well done!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@heyteacher @Wascatlady Of course, lower grades also may have more access to remediation, in the form of Title 1, RTI,  or other programs. (Personally,  RTI as I have experienced it is a near-total waste of time and effort.  It's a way the state of Georgia avoids providing sped services for years until the child is so damaged they are a behavior problem or too far behind to ever graduate.)

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@heyteacher @Wascatlady I understand about the pressure put on teachers to accept late work.  I think you handle that, as a faculty, by ganging up on your principal with well-reasoned arguments in favor of your position.  The trick is, do they have the support of the CO?  And oftentimes it is "no."  I once participated in an "intervention" with a principal that was successful, but I can imagine many not being.

A 5th grade teacher colleague has had great success with a simple rule for homework:  If you are unable to get it done, have your parent write the note explaining why, and there are no repercussions.  Of course,he saves the notes.  If the child does not bring in a note, there IS fallout, but otherwise the notes just exist as an "in case there is a question about the poor grade"  It really has cut down on homework not being done, as well as questions about low grades.

What helped my school a lot was recently getting a principal one year removed from about 18 years in the classroom.  She is a delight to work with because she knows the curriculum, the families, and she will speak up for her teachers.

We have to be careful, even with young children, not to set up poor expectations, but also give lots of support so students have a good chance to get things finished and in on time.  Sometimes this means providing materials or class time to work on projects.  Sometimes it means holding hands. Sometimes it means cheerleading, and sometimes we get disappointed.  But we absolutely MUSt look down the road!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@class80olddog @Wascatlady @heyteacher Student Support Team--folks who met to discuss kids who were struggling and look for answers as to why that was happening. (Vision, hearing, ability, lack of parental guidance, need for different delivery, etc, )

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

To All: 

In an email, a high school teacher noted those of you contending late work should not be accepted aren't looking at the full picture -- a failing grade could keep the student at the school longer, which costs taxpayers more. Isn't it a more efficient alternative to accept late work and thus keep the student moving forward? 

 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@MaureenDowney 

One must consider the differing circumstances for different students in order to render the best answer for that student. Our policies presently in schools, in police work, in mental illness, and in prisons are costing the tax payer more than is necessary if wisdom, rather than judgment, were exercised by the society and by the professionals in each category. We must deal with the root of the problems in order to be more effective with our tax dollars, as well as with our moral responsibility to other human beings.
 

Becca Leech
Becca Leech

@Astropig @MaureenDowney Except that current research overwhelmingly shows that retaining students leads to lower academic achievement and an increase in high school drop-outs, who are very expensive for our society. Let's leave it to those familiar with the research - teachers -to make appropriate decisions about the best ways to advance student achievement. We have already done much to increase overall literacy rates and educational attainment in our country. Let us continue to do our jobs - and don't believe the hype that we are not raising educational achievement, because the evidence indicates otherwise.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Becca Leech @Astropig @MaureenDowney "Let us continue to do our jobs"

Your "job" is to give grades that truly reflect the mastery of the subject matter, and to base graduation on mastery of at least the minimum level of skills.  What we are seeing now is that this is not happening, so some companies have started testing their applicants for basic skills.  Fix your problem or we will fix it for you!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaureenDowney "Isn't it a more efficient alternative to accept late work and thus keep the student moving forward? "

The most "efficient" way, from a monetary standard, is just to give everyone a high school diploma, regardless of their grades, or if they learn anything, or if they even come to class.  Very cheap.  Oh, that is what we already do?

Becca Leech
Becca Leech

@class80olddog @Becca Leech @Astropig @MaureenDowney No. My job is not to give grades. My job is teach children. All the children who come to me. We are now educating every child, where in the past we excluded many. Do not believe the myths that overall literacy and educational levels are declining. They have steadily increased. And I agree that teachers need to be given more freedom to teach basic skills, which is the very purpose of remediation. Plenty of lay persons are already "fixing" teaching. That is where the true problem lies.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Becca Leech @Astropig @MaureenDowney I don't buy the "increase in high school dropouts" research.  IF you developed a protocol where students were assigned randomly to be retained in school, it might be more convincing.  As it is, you have THE MOST SEVERE cases being retained.  That these kids would be likely to drop out should be no surprise!  They have been retained for a significant reason, whether it is ability, absences, mental health, or other.  In Georgia, nowadays, it is pretty doggone rare for a student to be retained until they are unable to pass in high school.  There are significant barriers that have been allowed to grow, and catch up when social promotion is no longer possible.  We need to be finding out WHY students are not achieving, and do what can be done to ameliorate that barrier.


Saying retention causes dropouts is like saying serving coffee causes air turbulence.

booful98
booful98

@MaureenDowney The justification that it is more cost efficient seems like a massive cop out. It won't be cheap to keep those students on welfare/food stamps/prison because they can't hold a job due to the lack of proper skills.

redweather
redweather

@MaureenDowney  Can we really defend this practice based on a "cost to taxpayer" argument?  I don't think so. And while keeping students moving forward is a laudable goal--who but an ingrate would argue against that--intervening during the school year to help the student get back on track is the better practice.


As a college professor, I am charged with delivering course material as set out in what we call a Common Course Outline.  I have 15 weeks in which to do this, and students have the same amount of time.  Although I can give students a grade of "I" (incomplete) at semester's end, I can only do that under extraordinary circumstances, i.e., extended hospital stay and/or catastrophic injury. 


High school students need to know that deadlines are what drive the real world.



class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @Becca Leech @Astropig @MaureenDowney I finally looked up the "increased dropout rate for retained children" research.  That is only HALF of the story - the other half is that students promoted that have not mastered the subject matter ALSO are at high risk for dropping out, because they cannot keep up in their new classes.  BOTH retention AND social promotion are bad.  I have sort of changed my tune to push for students to be put into special classes when they are not "up to speed".  Of course, that is not PC and probably results in "de facto" segregation.

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

@MaureenDowney So students should be promoted because it's cheaper than making sure they've met the criteria for promotion? Seriously? I would argue that keeping them behind until they master the material would give a more accurate picture of how much money is really needed to educate some students properly. After all, if we really wanted to save some serious tax-payer dollars, we could do away with public education and require all parents to home-school. Not a good idea.


I understand the thinking though. As a technical education instructor, I often find myself asking if a student has learned enough to be employable in an entry-level position, so they will be a tax-paying citizen instead of a tax-draining citizen. Bottom line: If they're not employable in the field they've chosen to study, they don't graduate, at least not from my program.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney


"Isn't it a more efficient alternative to accept late work and thus keep the student moving forward? "


Not efficient. It simply shifts the costs down the road,out of sight of the education establishment. 



class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @class80olddog @Becca Leech @Astropig @MaureenDowney So why don't we have tracking and (very non-PC) "slow classes"?  They eliminated them because more of a certain race ended up there (not because of IQ, I believe, but from social factors).  "They" seemed to think that it was the racist principals who put all of "those kids" into the classes as part of a deep dark plot to suppress the Negro race.