As a teacher, I can attest to the fact that the grading policy becomes a real problem. Before it became mandatory, I was forced to implement a similar policy whereby I gave a grade of 40 on assignments that weren't turned in so as not to completely condemn students. The policy was in line with a standards-based grading system. In standards-based grading, grades reflect mastery of content--not completion of work. I can't measure mastery if I do not have the product. A student who fails to turn in an assignment is not showing 0% mastery, so to record it as so is inaccurate.
I would also allow students to turn in late work and missing assignments up to the very last day before grades were due. I also allowed students to re-take tests--after all, mastery of the content should not have an expiration date. If they master the standards, I want their grades to reflect that mastery. However, sometimes the grade students earned after completing an assignment showed mastery lower than 40%. In a standards-based system, that lower grade needs to stand until the student shows mastery. But then there is a big problem: students who didn't do the assignment ended up with a higher default grade than students who completed the assignment. So I would have to bump the grade to 40%, even though I knew the student had not even mastered the standards to that extent.
Then toward the end of the grading period, I would have to bump up students' grades even with 40% being the lowest because my failure rates were too high. I would end up having to go through and change 40's to 60's. I never could get down to the 10% failure rate that was acceptable, but 35% failures was the lowest my integrity would let me go. Had I left everything alone, the failure rate was 55%. Consequently, students who had failed to master the standards would end up passing the class and moving on. But, it didn't matter anyway, because MNPS also has a policy that puts a student in the next course in the sequence regardless of whether or not he or she passed the pre-requisite course. So, basically, all of the grades are a joke.
Students have been kicked out of magnets for poor grades and behavior.
We don't need to worry about the students who get into academic magnets. We need to worry about the passing students being held back by kids with low motivation, low ability, and no parental involvement. They are making it very difficult for teachers to teach, so the top students in comprehensive high schools aren't making the kind of growth they could be making.
Unfortunately, school choice and vouchers don't solve the problem because these students also have vouchers and choice. The system needs to be completely reworked to provide for situations in which capable students are not being held back.
You can't really make blanket statements about magnet schools in MNPS as there are several different types. The academic magnets have minimum test scores and teacher recommendations as tools for weeding out the riff-raff. The arts magnet absolutely chooses its students, and those students must audition for their acceptance. East Lit, on the other hand, does not get to weed out its students and is a NCLB school of choice for the failing schools in its vicinity; consequently, it too suffers from unruly students.
Teachers who have gone from comprehensive high schools to academic magnets talk about them as if they were private schools. They are shocked that their students complete work and turn in work at the expected level of quality. They are respected and supported by parents and administrators. It is sad that this is shocking.
Every teacher should have students who do work and the support of parents and administrators. But parents are uninvolved, and administrators can't support teachers that appear to be "bad" teachers due to underperforming students.
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