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What do you do with a bright kid who simply hates school and ditches it constantly? Like one Virginia mom, you might think the consequence of skipping school would be flunking your classes. Like that same mom, you might be wrong.
See, despite the fact that this woman’s daughter consistently failed her English assignments and even skipped the final exam, she was given an A for the fourth quarter so she would ultimately pass the class with a D. There were other instances of mysterious passing grades on her daughter’s report card, so the Virginia mom sent an email to her teachers, asking them to fail her daughter as a consequence for ditching school.
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The English teacher responded by explaining that the student understood the material and that failing the student wouldn’t really help her academically.
And while it probably sounds counterintuitive to pass a student who doesn’t even bother to show up, Fairfax County spokesman John Torre explains that teachers have a significant amount of leeway when it comes to how they choose to weight a final exam grade.
“Final grades may be based on trends in and mastery of learning rather than based solely on numerical averaging of quarterly grades for the year,” Torre told The Washington Post’s Jay Mathews in response to the situation. “A teacher may decide to limit the impact of a final exam grade if they feel it does not represent a student’s mastery of the content. Limiting the impact of a final exam grade does not mean the final exam score only counts if it maintains or raises a student’s overall grade. That’s not the district’s policy.”
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It’s easy to view this as an instance of a school simply rewarding poor performance, but in the school’s defense, it’s just as easy to imagine a similar uproar over a student in the opposite situation, having all As in a class and tanking a final exam out of the blue. Teachers need the flexibility to evaluate a student beyond simple scores. That makes sense.
The student’s mother argues that her daughter will never be able to excel in college without learning high school fundamentals. But since her daughter has failed to show up, what would subjecting her to another year of the same accomplish exactly? It’s far more likely that failing a bored, disengaged, but otherwise bright student would only make her become more discouraged. A different learning environment, like junior college, might be precisely what this student needs to get her excited about school again. Maybe not, but it’s clear the current situation isn’t working.
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Bright, gifted students commonly struggle in traditional high school environments and suffer higher dropout rates than their peers. They’re bored and need an academic environment more suited to their needs.
What else is troubling about this mother’s response to her daughter’s truancy is that she views this as the school’s issue. Discipline and following basic rules are skills that should be taught and enforced at home. Teachers are experts on a kid’s academic performance, but parents need to be the experts on whether their children’s needs are being met and how to get them engaged in their own future.