Saturday, June 27, 2009

Districts Send Muddied Messages At Year's End

Control Issues, Dysfunction Abound Related To Graduation Practices

Several articles caught my attention as the school year winds down. They seem to scream "dysfunction" at various local school districts.

The debate over class rankings, GPA calculations and weighted courses has become an annual rite this time of year. So much effort is put forth to assure there are no numerical rankings, valedictorians, salutatorians etc. that it boggles my mind. Could someone please explain why it's perfectly fine for our schools to name someone "Player of the Year" or "Most Valuable Player" on a team sport but find that it sets up "unhealthy competition" to name its top one, two or three academic performers? In Greece, we have no problem letting the world know that the hockey team is "Number 1" in all of New York State and that player Joe Blow is to credit for it, but please don't anyone dare say that one student academically outperformed their classmates at a given school! No wonder we can't get get the graduation rates out of the basement. Our priorities are screwed up!

More proof seems to be that salutatory speech-delivering honors have been bestowed upon a Greece "student athlete" with a 3.65 GPA on a 4.5 scale. And please ... I won't take any flak for highlighting this example when we all know that there are probably dozens of kids with higher GPAs and less athletic prowess who deserved to give that speech for their ACADEMIC PROWESS. God forbid should we recognize a kid for the reason he/she attends school!

If class rankings don't cause a district to show its dysfunction, then censoring student speeches probably will. It's bad enough the content of the speeches given by the "top chosen" students is washed clean of any message that might not be politically correct. Sadly, it doesn't stop there! Monroe High School saw fit to eliminate the possibility of giving credit to a few good teachers by name! Why? Internal politics related to a teacher reapplication process ... and it might hurt the feelings of the teachers who weren't named! Could the teachers and school administrators behave any more childishly than this? I hate to ask ...

Finally, I want to give "Survivor of the Year" honors to a mom/son "team" who overcame the odds and the Greece district's dysfunction to make it all the way to graduation day. Odyssey student James Piccarreto and his mother Carla have made it through 13 years of an often uphill, public battle against district policies, practices and political correctness, despite the extra hurdles of dealing with autism. CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU BOTH :)


Anonymous said...

Scats, don't you know better? Of course sports are tops in Greece and other districts. Parents have their (twisted) dreams all wrapped up in Johnny's performance on the field and Suzie's on the court. What's education got to do with school these days? Very little!

Clueless Greece Administration said...

Democrat & Chronicle - June 27,2009
Student Resents Censorship of Speech

"Teachers were required to reapply for their jobs at Monroe under the school's restructuring plan to remove itself from the state Department of Education's list of failing schools." "The idea was to ensure the staff was committed to the new direction."

There's an idea in there, somewhere. Hmmmm. Maybe someone smarter than me can see it.

Anonymous said...

3:41 It's called getting rid of some dead weight. Sounds like a great idea to me!

Anonymous said...

Valedictory honors are given to all students with a gpa beteeen 4.0 and 4.5, same as magna cum laude in universities. The kids with a gpa between 3.5 and 3. 999 get salutatory honors. What's wrong with that idea? In the past we had to decide if a kid with six honors courses and no elective and a 4.335 was higher thn a kid with three honors courses and a ton of electives and a 4.336 - because our courses are all unweighted. So the kid with no honors courses and a higher gpa would always beat out the kid with a very heavy courseload, and that doesn't seem right. Then we figured out a music kid could get more courses than anyone else due to voice lessons, and, mathematically the valedictorian would ALWAYS be a music kid, and that doesn't seem right.

The way it is now, at least, doesn't make us tussle over that, and the university model is a respected model with a long track record. I say it works.

Also please don't anyone think the athlete of the year model is a good one. That is a highly political and subjective deicion made through a voting process and over the years has really been a painful thing for whatever athletes or schools lack political clout in the athletics community. Lousy model.

SCATS said...

To 11:06AM ~~ "Valedictory honors are given to all students with a gpa beteeen 4.0 and 4.5, same as magna cum laude in universities."

You are 100% wrong! First of all, not all colleges use a 4.0 scale (many if not most don't!). Secondly, not all colleges give magna cum laude honors regardless of GPA.

"What's wrong with that idea?"
What's wrong is that we fail to honor those who succeed in accomplishing the school district's mission with flying colors by failing to recognize the FEW TOP STUDENTS as special for their talents! Isn't it discriminatory to exclude awards based solely upon academics when not everyone is athletically or musically inclined? Maybe this issue demonstrates that the district offers way too many easy classes and gives out much higher grades than the students deserve.

"The way it is now, at least, doesn't make us tussle over that ..."
The way it is now is that we took a broken system and fed into its dysfunction instead of correcting for the fact that we need to weight the courses!

"That is a highly political and subjective deicion made through a voting process ..."

Do you honestly believe politics exists outside the realm of music in Greece? And when it comes to "subjective" there is nothing more subjective than the grades teachers hand out to high school kids! Comparing them to the magna cum laude group in college is beyond laughable! I know for a fact that Greece is well-known for handing out watered down grades by several local colleges. RIT told parents they actually recompute Greece's GPAs!

Anonymous said...

Scats: we should have seen this coming when we twisted the grade point averages so kids who fail a course or two can still play sports. After all, it's important to play sports, even if the students can't graduate!
That said, we also should recognize that in courses with "subjective" grades, like courses that test with essay questions, the assignment of a grade is dependent on the teacher's impression of the essay, not the calculation of a percentage of right answers. As such, grades will always be subjective and not calculable to the third decimal point used to separate valedictorian from salutatorian from honor essayist from featured speaker. Declaring someone "best" by 0.001 or 0.002 is ludicrous and without any mathematical merit.
We will need better ways to calculate grades and weight them by difficulty of course if we are going to award these academic honors.
This sounds as challenging as finding a way to evaluate teaching quality, doesn't it?
But, I am gratified that at least we are talking about finding ways to recognize academic achievement. It has almost become a politically-incorrect term in Greece.
Shame, shame on us....

SCATS said...

To 8:14PM ~~ I'm not in complete agreement with you especially on the statement you made about subjectivity and the teacher's impression counting when grading an essay. A well written essay usually shows whether the student learned anything about the subject. There's not too much that's subjective in grading for factual content. Essays that are based on other aspects, like persuasive writing ability, can be judged on the author's use of examples to support their contentions. Yes, I know it's work, but last time I checked we were still giving paychecks to our teachers to perform such duties.

I do agree with your first paragraph. As I keep saying, we've really lost our focus.

Anonymous said...

There's really no reason to get all bent outta shape about a kid getting a 58% or a 60% or a 20%, for that matter. Think about it. How are those supposedly "accurate" averages calculated anyway?

They're arrived at by averaging together scores from testing instruments that the TEACHERS made up! Are these teachers trained experts in test construction? I seriously doubt it! Then they spend all kinds of time using calculators, spreadsheets, grading programs, etc. calculating a kid's average out to the hundredths place before they round, and they think that the resultant number has some "meaning." Gimme a break!

And they even "defend" that calculation in parent conferences, don't they? How many times have parents heard something like: "Well, Mrs. Jones, as you can see by these numbers, Johnny's average is a 68%. That represents the work he did."

Hogwash! If the teacher happened to gave a couple of "killer" assignments, the kids' averages would end up LOWER! If the teacher gave a few easier ones, the averages would be HIGHER! Are you gonna tell me that these numbers represent "learning"??? Not a chance!

There's an old saying in computer circles: GIGO ("Garbage In, Garbage Out").

SCATS said...

To 9:39PM ~~ If you want to see a teacher's jaw drop at a conference ask them what SPECIFIC THINGS your kid has to do to get an A next time. The eyes will get wide as the jaw drops ... then there's lots of "GIGO" and CYAing.

PS ~~ Merely ASKING that question almost ensures they will get that A next time ;) It works like a charm.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought that under the new policy one "F" keeps you from playing. Under the old policy, you had to have a 2.0, which means you could have an "A" in something like phys ed offset the "F" and keep playing.

Anonymous said...

Not to beat a dead horse, but how about a policy that says "no failing grades", or "no failing grades and a 2.0 average to play"? Students with failing grades are not making the desired progress to graduation, and that should be the goal of attending school.

Anonymous said...

7:24 - that's the way it is now. Get an "F" on your mid-term or end-of-term report card and you can't play for 5 weeks (assuming you can get the grade up by then). You can practice with the team with one F. Two F's no practice no play. Three Fs...goodbye. Off the team.

Now...the difference is that while you had to have a 2.0 average before to play (which means you could get three F's as long as you got 3 A's), you could IN THEORY have a straight D average (1.0) and play under the new policy. That's why some don't like it. So I agree with 7:24. Make it 2.0 as well as the current system.

SCATS said...

To 11AM ~~ When a 2.0 GPA was required before, that was on a scale of 4.0 for calculating GPAs. I think that since we've broadened that scale to 4.5, it should be a 2.5 GPA minimum to play sports or participate in any activity.