Monday, February 05, 2007

This Rule Still Doesn't Get a Passing Grade From Me

There's been a lot of talk recently about the supposed "dilution" of the "no pass, no play" rule that's been in Texas for over 20 years now (in other words, certain classes have been allowed to be exempt from the effects of the law if they're labeled as "advanced." This applies to as many as 166 classes in one Austin-area district, whereas the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake (home of the Class 5A state football champions, incidentally) has no exemption list at all.

But now lawmakers want to get back into the game, and, as usual, we should be scared:
wo key lawmakers say they want to close a loophole that allows students with bad grades to slip by the state's no-pass, no-play law.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said she plans to pursue legislation to tighten the law, which requires students to score at least 70 in their courses to play sports or participate in other extracurricular activities.

Rep. Rob Eissler, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, said the state clearly needs to change rules that allow school districts to label courses as advanced and exempt them from no-pass, no-play requirements.

The legislators spoke out this week after The Dallas Morning News published a story Sunday showing that schools across the state use the exemption policy to exclude yearbook, auto shop, cooking and many other courses from those rules.

"It is appalling," said Ms. Shapiro. "It was certainly not the intent of the legislation. It has obviously taken a turn for the worse."

The Legislature approved the no-pass, no-play law in 1984 to bench students for poor grades. The exemptions are designed to encourage students to take tough classes without fear of losing eligibility.
There are three areas in which I have disagreed with the original law (and thus side with the idea of exemptions) ever since the beginning. Here are the first two:
    • Students shouldn't be penalized for accepting an academic challenge. If a student attempts to take a challenging course (many of the AP courses fall under this category), he or she is doing so for personal enrichment; such a course is not part of the basic education. If the student aims high and falls just short in a class that's an "extra," there's no reason to assess a penalty by taking away part of another class (athletics, fine arts, etc.). If someone's failing basic math or English, that's another story, but the reward of AP classes should be greater than the risk. (After all, it's not like someone can just go drop the class, as could be done in college.)
    • This rule is set up incorrectly in the first place. It should never have come down to depriving someone of an extracurricular event simply because of failing one class. This means that a student isn't even allowed to have a bad day (blow a test badly enough in some classes, and you're sunk for the six-weeks)....or a bad teacher, for that matter. Penalziing someone to this extent for failing one class (out of five, seven or eight, depending on the school system) is like failing someone on a test for missing a single question.

      So what's the correct way it should be done? Cumulative grade point average, of course. That's the only number that matters in class rank, college admissions, and so on. If that number drops below a certain level (70, for sure, but I'd even go for 75), then the punishment kicks in, but to me, the whole idea of meting out this penalty for failing a single class has always struck me as absurd.
    I'll come back later and explain one more reason why I don't care for the "no-pass" rule in its current incarnation, but in the meantime, let me know your thoughts on this issue in the comments.
  • 1 comment:

    Gary P. said...

    Texas has Zero Tolerance (tm) for bad grades!