Friday, April 8, 2016

Day 135: The Tortoise and The Hare

Yesterday was the first student day since August of 2013 that I did not write a post here.  I just couldn't.  We had an early dismissal so that the district could attend the funeral.  I saw 4 of my classes and those were sparsely populated.  I sat and put in grades.

Yesterday was also the last day of the 3rd marking period.  This is the first year where I have seniors on my roster.  This means that students who fail my class are putting their graduation in jeopardy.

To this effect, I made a spread sheet.

There are fewer things that I find more satisfying that programming excel sheets.  I love being able to fill in a single block and have others auto-populate!  I am a nerd.

One of the science teachers sent me the excel sheet that he uses to calculate final grades.  On his, he plugs in the grades for the first 3 marking periods, scores on midterms and then fiddles with the numbers to find out what kids need to pass.

I started with his sheet and added a few columns.  When I input the grades already earned, my sheet calculated what the student needs to earn in the 4th marking period in order to earn a 60% for the year.  I also added a column that tells me if the student is in danger of not earning that score based on their past performance.

Then I color coded it!  If a student is guaranteed to pass the year, their score is coded blue.  Those who need at least a B have theirs coded as yellow with red being used for students who cannot mathematically pass.

On Monday, I plan to hand out form letters that say "You have X grade for the year.  In order to pass, you need Y in the 4th marking period.  I will help you achieve this, but ultimately, you need to be the one to earn it."

On top of all of this, I received an email yesterday that I suspect will be the first of many.  The substance essentially boiled down to "My child's college acceptance/scholarship requires him/her to have a certain GPA.  Right now, her/his grade in your class is putting that in jeopardy."

I am deeply torn by these types of emails.  I don't want to bump up the grade of a student who hasn't earned it, who hasn't demonstrated mastery of the concepts.  If a student is not successful in my class, especially though their inability or unwillingness to complete my assignments, I'm not sure how that will change in college.

The tortoise and the hare used to be a story that we used to tell kids that it's more important to be consistent.

Sometimes, that final sprint is enough to get you to the finish line.  Sometimes it isn't.

I know that they are the ones who choose to take a nap at the beginning of the race.  I know it's not my responsibility to carry them across the finish line.  I do what I can to shake them awake at the start of the race, but eventually, it's simply too late.


  1. That's such a tough one. I wonder if the parents are interested enough to write, whether they might be willing to partner with you and their child to supervise/encourage them to do what needs to be done. That way if they fail, it's a shared responsibility. I know it should be now but an invested parent is a bird in hand and if I weren't mixing metaphors I'd say run with it.

  2. Ok, my take on this: son #2 just this morning got wait-listed at his top college (my alma mater, and where his brother will graduate in a month.) his SAT scores were good, but math was a struggle this year. He got a D first term and a 69 2nd term. Our admin has always told us not to give grades ending in 9, and my dept head (his teacher) ALWAYS follows the rules. I'm still angry about it, but chose not to say anything because I walk a thin line in my school anyway, always trying to right wrongs. And I didn't want to be "that parent." But now I'm not so sure. If I'd asked about why the 69 instead of the 70 (and honestLy, he was marked down for a notebook check after his 3-ring binder fell apart... The kid is registered for the draft but you're grading his notes?) maybe that wait-list would have been an acceptance.

    Granted, my boy could have done a lot to help himself out, but these issues are real. He's really upset today, and dad and I are dealing with the fallout. He has 4 acceptances to choose from, but he really should have gotten in to this school. It's a tough one.

  3. The kicker who misses the field goal as time expires did not lose the game, his team did plenty wrong leading up to that. One single item or grade is the reason for a 69, just the tip of an iceberg. Never heard of "not giving grades that end in 9." Just moves the complaining down to a 68.

  4. My father worked in a school district where they literally got rid of F's. They replaced it with an H if the student got below a 60%. He often said that the parents he needed to chat with about their student's grades never showed up until they got the letter about failing. Then they wanted to know why he wasn't passing them. Not why was their student failing.


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