Wednesday, May 17, 2006

This Idea Gets a Failing Grade From Me

For quite some time, Texas school students have been subject to the "no-pass, no-play" rule, which prohibits anyone who fails a class during the previous six-weeks grading period from participating in extracurricular activities for the next six weeks (though one may be reinstated by having a passing progress report at the three-week mark). In DeSoto, a southern suburb of Dallas, officials are considering taking this rule even farther by prohibiting failing students from even attending such activities:
To bolster academics, officials are discussing a proposal that would keep any student who fails any classes from attending extracurricular events – from band concerts to football games. The "no-pass, no-attend" proposal would transcend no-pass, no-play, the state rule prohibiting a student who fails a class from participating in extracurricular activities.

Although they were concerned some students might cause trouble if banned from school events, DeSoto school board members generally seemed to favor the proposal during a recent meeting.
Does anyone think this is really a good idea? The article raises several concerns: Administrators having to police attendance at games. the dilemma of single-parent families with, say, one kid failing and others passing, and the inevitable legal questions, which have yet to be resolved.

I'm not in favor of such an idea because I doubt it would accomplish what it sets out to do, and because it might have unintended negative consequences. For one thing, if a student is attending a game, concert or similar event, at least he's at school and under adult supervision. The alternative might be, what....out on the streets? Besides, a kid who's not doing well might already have a negative attitude toward school; take away something that might be the one enjoyable thing about school for that student, and the downward spiral could continue.

Besides, I've never actually been on board with the way no-pass, no-play is done in Texas. I don't agree with the idea of penalizing a student who fails one class. That student simply could have had a bad day, a bad test...or a bad teacher. If I could reform Texas education (and boy, would I), that whole thing would be tied to cumulative grade point average, which is what counts in college...and I'm all in favor of making high school more like college in many ways (but that's a different post for a different time). Taking away what might be the student's only passion because of a bad grade in a single class has never held water with me. (And if you're wondering, it never was an issue with me, because I can name you the four things I've failed in school right here: Two consecutive sixth-grade math tests, my clarinet proficiency barrier in college, and a midterm in [thankfully] the only music history course I took in grad school.)

I'm especially interested in hearing from my fellow educators on this one--Super Anonymous JP? Ms. Worley? I realize that I might get people agreeing with me on the DeSoto proposal being a bad idea, yet thinking I'm all wet on the no-pass issue, but hopefully, it'll be a good debate.

Cool + beans: I've gone to Starbucks every night this week so far, not just because the new banana fraps are awesome (though they are), but so I could enjoy these cool nights on the patio. I know we'll be missing them in a month or so, when it's 89 degrees at ten o'clock at night, but for's been gorgeous.


Eric Grubbs said...

These officials are talking pipe dreams. This would be a bigger headache than they would imagine. It's like relieving a headache by shooting your foot.

Ms. Worley said...

Sorry I'm late to the party on this one. I've been blog deficient recently, as evidenced by my own not-updated-since-April blog.
As a middle school teacher, I'm in favor of no pass no play, but this new one seems like a stretch and a pain.
For me and my younger variety kids, I think it's good for them to see consequences beyond the obvious bad grade on a report card. The way the rule is built, and I think it's enforced this way across the board, is such that when a student fails a class for a six-week grading period, they lose their eligibility for a minimum of three weeks. After three weeks, if the student is passing all of their classes, they have their eligibility back. If not, then they have to wait to the end of the grading period (another three weeks, roughly) and see if they're passing everything then.
My experience here at the MS level has been that the kids who show up on the eligibility report are either A. kids who are failing LOTS of things in a big way (grades in the 50's) or B. kids who have one class that is slipping away from them (65-69 range). The kids in category A were probably failing my class too and likely really need to see the counselor to see what's up at home... maybe divorce, abuse, job loss, or some other issue is happening, or just hanging out with the wrong crowd and slacking off for those reasons.
The kids in category B usually cry about the unfairness of it all for a sec but then admit that they weren't actually turning in homework, or they didn't study for the big test, etc. They then go to a few tutorials, straighen up and fly right, as it were.

Now, at the high school level, I'm not as much about no pass no play, as at a certain point a major is born... for me it was as an eighth grader that I started keeping binders full of every song I'd every sung, taking notes of techniques I noticed in lessons or choir class, etc. I could not have cared less about physics and algebra if I tried. At the same time, there are plenty of people who go to college majorless, and for those people, the basic courses in math, language, science, etc. are probably going to be necessities.
Or of course, there are those who don't go to college at all... what's best for them? I have no experience there (living in the adult world without a degree) so I don't know how much of high school is necessary to get a survival-level job, and what's available beyond survivor-level.
Yeah yeah, blah blah well rounded citizen, etc. and truly I never failed a class that affected my eligibility (the classes I failed were honors level or otherwise exept)... but it's a shame to pull a talkented kid out of "The Big Game" or a performance opportunity because they don't know all there is to know about the quadratic equation. Yeesh.

I don't even want to think about the administrative headache of having a list of all currently ineligible students, manning the doors to watch for listed students, kicking students out/calling parents, etc. just because they got a 68 in a class.