Blaming state rules for a more stringent curriculum and a mandate that students must graduate in four years, the Grand Rapids Public School system is launching their new “success only” plan.
The plan, as explained by district spokesmen John Helmholdt will include a new grading system that does not contain an “F” but instead an “H” for those who have failed. Receiving an “H” will entitle the student to be able to re-take the failed class, or part of the class, again, until they get it right. To accomplish this, the district will offer Saturday school, and more after school and online help.
Helmholdt explained that since 14-, 15-, or 16-year old kids simply don’t have their lives together yet, it seems a bit unfair to label them a “life failure,” by giving them an “F.” If the student does manage to pass the class, the “H” will not appear on their permanent record.
While being available evenings, online, and Saturdays probably isn’t very appealing to the teachers, objecting to the new “success only” plan of what they perceive as a relaxing of the standards has its merits. Union president Paul Helder noted that the plan is, “Not a second chance. It’s like a 22nd chance.”
‘We’re not out to get anybody, but we do think that students need to learn some responsibility,” Helder continued. Most teachers would be aware that certain students are failing, and would notify parents of the matter if students remained unconcerned and showed little effort to rectify their own situation. Really, every one knows how the system works -- flunking out has been around for eons.
What the union leader is saying is that the relaxing of standards is, in actuality, a dumbing down of standards and expectations, which benefit no one, especially the students. And he’s also quite correct in believing that giving some of these students chance after chance reinforces irresponsibility.
In the school district where I live, they’ve been doing this for years -- they just didn’t go public with it. They have what the kids call “pass class.” If you goofed around, messed around, and generally had yourself a good time for three and three quarters years, there’s still hope for graduation because you can get into the “pass class.”
For the last three weeks or so of your senior year, whatever classes you failed over the last four years are condensed into a pamphlet-style down-your-throat crash course. It’s amazing what can be accomplished in three weeks by the desperate student, under the watchful eye of mom and dad, who are not going to suffer the humiliation of having their offspring not graduate in a Midwest community that values highly what they believe is a fine education.
Not graduating would cause all sorts of problems, from grandpa and grandma’s speculation of just what went wrong, to the canceling of the park or hall that was rented in anticipation of the graduation party to whom 150 people have already been invited. (I kid you not, grad parties are huge around here. The kids usually rake in enough cash to put a down payment on a small house, or pay for their first year in college.)
Besides, the pass classes are a clever idea, really. The kid graduates, and won’t have to suffer the stigma attached to not being a bearer of a diploma -- because of the homeschooling movement this doesn’t matter any more, other than psychologically for the parents -- and the success rate numbers for the high school are beautiful. Last time I checked, my district had close to a 100 percent graduation rate several years running.
And isn’t having these great stats for one’s district what it’s all about?