Little is said publicly about the negative impact on student performance of well meaning school boards, employers, parents, coaches and judges. Certainly these groups are not held accountable for their role in the failure of today's educational system.
Nevertheless, if we are to improve student performance, it behooves us to make a few changes outside the classroom before schools are restructured or reinvented and dedicated teachers are defamed and demoralized.
The following are a few factors that negatively impact student motivation and performance. They are categorized by those responsible.
Providing an Easy Way Out
Students have learned that they can avoid working in a class, fail it, and then make it up in summer school, night school or special programs.
In low performing schools, it is not uncommon to have a number of students who attend summer school every year and plan to fail a particular course during the school year because it is easier to pass in summer school.
Students can have F's deleted from their transcript by retaking classes. Hence, there is little reason to worry about failing a class.
Grading with Letters Rather than Numbers
When student's grades are reported in letters rather than numbers, motivation to excel is diminished. This is because an average of weighted letter grades hides the student's performance level.
For example, if a student earns a B for two terms, he will get a B for a final grade whether he earns an A or a C on the exam.
On the other hand, if the student earns a D for two terms, he'd get a D for the final grade whether he passes the exam with a C or doesn't bother taking it.
By opening a magnet program which attracts higher level students, a school can improve its statistical report.
Since magnet students' scores are averaged with those of the general population, the school may appear to be improving even though nothing has actually changed. Thus, when schools with magnet programs are compared to schools without magnet programs erroneous conclusions can easily be made about the effectiveness of instruction at each school.
Maintaining a Double Standard Regarding Standards
Teachers who attempt to maintain high standards with a low performing population and who have a high failure rate are more likely to have their practices questioned than teachers who require little of their students and pass them all.
Since many teachers are reluctant to balk against administrative encouragement to pass students, students do not meet with consistent high expectations. Thus, they are not convinced that they will fail if they do not do their work. In fact, some are indignant if they do not pass, if they "at least tried."
State Boards of Education
By scheduling achievement tests once a year, state boards of education skew data in favor of one schedule or another due to a difference in time students have to forget course material.
Administration of tests should be scheduled at comparable times so that data can be accurately interpreted.
Students need to be held accountable for their part in the learning process, and they need to realize that not all academic can or should be turned into a game for their entertainment. Although teachers have a responsibility to teach in as interesting a manner as they can--students need to understand that some lessons require work.
Not Asking for Report Cards
Employers who fail to ask for report cards because they distrust grades are removing what surveyed students say would be a major motivator.
Scheduling Too Many Hours
Employers who ignore youth work laws cause students to fall behind. Employers should schedule little work during the week for students even if they claim not to have homework.
Being a parent is difficult these days; nevertheless, failing to perform certain parenting responsibilities usually causes poor performance at school.
Some areas especially important to your child's success in school include:
- Getting sufficient sleep.Sleep deprivation hinders learning. Monitor your child's use of the computer. Some students are becoming secretly addicted to pornography and getting very little sleep.
- Setting aside sufficient time for homework. Keep social activities to weekends, and don't allow wandering around the street at night.
- Providing a quiet, well lit place for the student to study each night. Some students have reported that the only place they could be alone to study was in the bathroom. Providing a place to study must be a priority if your child is to be successful.
- Maintaining a harmonious, supportive family. Listen to your child. Students often enter their first class in bad moods because of an argument they had before school.
- Developing a work ethic. Require that chores be done. Children may be rewarded for some, but should be required to do others simply because they are part of the family.
- Seeing a counselor if your family is in crisis.
Scheduling Too Much Practice
Many students who participate in sports spend so much time at practice that they don't have time or stamina to do their homework.
Fostering Unrealistic Dreams
Too many students who participate in school sports get unrealistic ideas of their potential for becoming a professional athlete and neglect their school work thinking it won't jeopardize their future.
Substituting the Classroom for a Jail Cell
Judges stipulating that students attend school in lieu of going to jail usually accomplish little for the student and negatively impact the classroom these students attend.
If judges feel this approach is in the student's best interest, they should make the placement contingent upon the student's earning passing grades.
By listing these factors I do not mean to imply that teachers do not have the major responsibility for student performance; they do. This fact however, does not lessen the impact of the other factors listed here.
It is imperative that we work together on behalf of our students and the future of our nation's educational system.