My child is an incredibly smart kid. This is something I’ve always known. His ability to pick up things after hearing them one time and shape them into knowledge and views that are applicable across real-life situations is incredible. He’s in the honors program in 6th grade and is truly making me very proud. He walked into a brand new school, knowing no one, kicked ass and walked out with a high B average after his first report card. For a kid that struggled in elementary school, this is a huge achievement.
When I went to the first parent-teacher conference, his teachers sat around and told me he was a great kid with a great attitude. They said he is kind and friendly and very interested in the lessons, but he was about 5 points below the class average in every single class. I can easily attribute this to the fact that he doesn’t test well. He can do the homework with ease and no assistance, but sit him at a desk for a quiz or test, he’s going to struggle a bit. I said we’d work on it and try different test-taking strategies.
Enter marking period 2. Almost 4 weeks in and he’s getting 85s and 90s on quizzes and tests, a far cry from the 60s and 70s he was getting first term. Obviously, whatever we’ve changed is helping.
He came home one day, simply ecstatic. “Mom! I got a 95 on the English vocabulary test!” You should know that he studied, every night for a week in order to do well on it. “Your hard work paid off”, I told him. We celebrated with ice cream.
We logged on to the classroom that evening to double check what his homework was and there was a note from his English teacher. It basically said that so many kids did so poorly on the vocab test, that they would review the information in class and retake the test. My boy nailed that re-test with a 100.
A week later came a big math test. We worked on the problems. We practiced every night. He was ready. He took the test and got an 85. He was so proud. Then, this report from the teacher: “Since only 7 students did as well as we hoped, we’re going to review and retake the test.”
You all sat in a conference with me and told me my kid was 5 points below the class average. He’s spent the last 4 weeks working his ass off to improve his test-taking skills. His hard work is paying off, but because other kids aren’t doing as well as you’d like them to, you’re basically saying, “let’s review and do this again”? So, when, exactly, does my child and all of his hard work get to be at the class average or better? Answer: He doesn’t. Because other kids didn’t fully learn the material they were supposed to, he’s going to wind up where he was last term, below class average.
Where were these re-tests when my kid was not doing well? Where was HIS chance to erase a poor grade and retest for a better one? Now that he’s kicking ass and taking names, you’re basically telling him he shouldn’t try so hard? I know that’s not the message you’re trying to send, but be aware that is EXACTLY what’s happening. He’s beginning to think if he rolls out with a 60 on a test, it’s not really going to matter, because you’re just going to review it and have them all retake it. That is pure, unadulterated bullshit.
I get that funding of schools these days depends, in part, on student performance. I think that’s a total crock of shit. What you’re doing is producing a generation of “do-over” kids and that’s not going to help them in the real world. It’s along the same lines as your participation ribbons. Don’t get me started on that one.
I think it’s a shame that my kid strives to do better and there is zero reward for that from the school that is supposed to be preparing him for the real world. He’s giving up far more of his time to do well and there are no rewards, other than pride, and let’s be honest – that doesn’t mean a whole lot to a 6th grader.
When he applies for college one day, he’ll be competing against grade point averages that have been heavily manipulated by a broken system. He’s never going to have the chance to be better than average, because schools are using the do-overs until most of the kids have the numbers they think they should have.
Here is a concept for you: let the kids fail a quiz or two. I get it if EVERY KID failed something. There was a lapse in teaching or something like that. But if you’ve got 10 out of 20 who did well, you’ve taught the material properly; 10 of them didn’t get it, or didn’t study. They’ll do better next time.
You’re not allowing these kids to be proud of the effort they put into it and you’re not encouraging them to learn from their mistakes. There are always going to be good grades and bad grades for the kids. Teach them to work hard for the grade they want. They should be asking for help if they’re not understanding it. If they don’t ask, then you let them get knocked down and it’s on them to figure out how to fix that.
Here’s an idea. If half of the class bombs a quiz or a test, let the grade stand. Give out some extra assignments to the whole class and specify it’s for extra credit – not something that erases the poor grade, but something to help add to it. Be sure the kids who did well on the test have the same opportunity to do the extra credit. This gives them practice in whatever it was they were struggling with, acknowledges the work of those who got it the first time, and doesn’t leave any kid thinking that life will be a series of do-overs if you fuck up the first time.
I’m not teaching my kid to expect second chances. I really don’t want the school system to do that.