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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Stomp (Or, How to make Homeschooling Look Good Again)

Poor Grice. Conformity and egalitarianism have trampled all over her, leaving big ugly tread marks on her soul.

My little perfectionist, no doubt one of the smartest and hardest working in her class, was subjected to the theoretically objective new state-wide grading system, the one that states all good solid work and effort shall be rewarded with a C, as C is average and what every student should attain, and honorable, nothing to be ashamed of; B's are rare; A's almost unheard of. Go, Mediocrity! The new grading system was announced last year, and Grice's school opted to institute it early, in the last grading period of the year, to familiarize everyone with the new standards. After her teacher gave me the preparatory rundown on how difficult and unusual it would be for students under the revised system to achieve A's and B's, she pushed Grice's report card across the table. All A's and B's for work, and all A's for effort, with outstanding comments. The teacher went on and on about her stellar performance. I was not surprised.

This year we received the same speech about the new tougher criteria and this time when the card was pushed across the table I was disturbed to see all C's, except for the A in art and a D in P.E. All effort marks were A's and B's. I didn't care about the grades, really, it's so arbitrary, but in their complicated efforts to make the process more objective, the state education department has actually in practice made it less so. What disturbed me was how Grice would react, and sure enough, when presented with the report at home, she immediately burst into hysterical sobs. We pointed out the comments were terrific and effort was high and that's all we were concerned with, screw the public school system, but she was inconsolable. Even jokes about the ridiculousness of the grades (Getting a D in gym with a B in effort, what does that mean? You tried real hard but you still suck at dodgeball?) didn't help.

At the beginning of this school year her current teacher had indicated at Meet the Teacher night that this, their last year in elementary school, would be the most difficult yet to prepare them for the rigors of high school (rigors which we're still waiting to see as Sarabelle continues to bring home the easiest and most imbecilic projects to work on) but honestly, it's not any harder than last year for Grice, so why the big discrepancy in the grades? We were also advised that the achievement of students who are not natural spellers (or "Word Smart" as the multiple intelligence information referred to it), who only get 4 out of 20 correct on weekly spelling tests, but who maybe improve to getting 5 out of 20 correct, would be seen as more impressive than the achievement of a child who consistently makes 20 out of 20. Go, Low Expectations! This incorrectly assumes though, that the child scoring 100% week after week is "Word Smart" and does not take into account the effort of a student like Grice, who is not, but who obsesses and and studies hard and considers it a dismal failure when she only scores 19 out of 20. And also assumes the teacher knows the correct spelling to begin with. On at least three occasions Grice has come home with what I now refer to as her "misspelling words" and once when I made her learn a word the correct way, not British vs. American, but just the good old-fashioned, there-is-no-such-word, proper spelling way, it was marked as incorrect. But what do you expect from a school whose motto is "To Try Is To Triumph"?

Speaking with a friend, whose child is also at the top of the class and Grice's bestie, we had the same impressions. Additionally we noted that the girls, who worked together on a group science project, were awarded with third place in the state for their presentation, something the teacher proudly pointed out and insisted we stop by the library to view, both only received C's in science. Neither of them received recognition for their positions on the Student Council (Grice is school captain) under Activities, and they had her daughter down as playing the wrong instrument. She however, is putting together an application for her daughter to attend a private school next year and it's crucial she have the card corrected. Jorge and I just don't give a flip. We can do better.

Grice has learned another valuable lesson.


Stephanie not in TX said...

Yikes. That's not just low expectations, that's actively discriminating against children who are intellectually talented, and children who work hard AND succeed.

Blech. Sorry, Grice. Sounds like they stink.

Becky said...

Oy. That's why we started hs'ing -- the principal and Laura's teacher suggested that we wait until the other little dears caught up with Laura. Meanwhile she was banging her head against the wall lol.

In a similar vein, to make you feel better, at one of Laura's 4H achievement days, the kids were judged on their table displays (documenting, well, their achievements for the year). The judges, a young man and young woman, scored each of the displays and announced at the end that none of the kids had received less than a red ribbon, red being the top color. Being the nosy parker I am, I read all of the kids' score cards, and noted that Laura and her best friend (another hs'er, and two of the youngest kids in the club) had each scored 97, and the other eight (including a few in high school) had scored in the low 90s and one in the mid 80s. But we wouldn't want to single anyone out, would we?

Laura was distracted by her wild success at the silent auction for her cake (where you absolutely couldn't make everything come out equal -- ha!), but her friend kept asking her mother, "So who won?"


KathyJo said...

Gah. All I can think to say (besides a particularly foul oath) is that after all these years, I can finally find something to praise in the American public schools: they haven't adopted THAT bit of nonsense. Still, I suppose it's only a matter of time. :}

Remind Grice that those "impressive" students scoring 5 out of 20 will someday be asking her, "D'you want fries with that, mate?"