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Striving for Average

jatod.jpgMy sons brought their report cards home.

I was not impressed.

No, I wasn't upset with their performance; rather, I was concerned that the highest mark a student can now receive is "meets grade level standards." There used to be an "exceeds grade-level standards" designation, but this has gone by the wayside. In other words, the highest a student can be is average.

My older son was particularly angry: "How WEAK!" he exclaimed, "I would have gotten all 'exceeds' but instead I just got 'meets!' That makes me so sad!" He explained how his posse of high-achieving friends were upset, too. "If the best we can be is average, then why even bother!" he shook his head.

Earlier this year when we met with his teacher for the traditional start-of-the-year parent-teacher conference, he expressed concern that our son wouldn't be challenged in math. At the start of the year he tested completely out of the math that would be taught the remainder of the year. Then the teacher dropped a bomb: apparently the junior high he'll attend next year has thrown away the advanced math classes in preference to spending their money and efforts on the "remedial" math so that everyone will at least meet the minimum standards by the time they enter high school.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?

I hate to be a braggart, but my son has outperformed his peers in mathematics for years. I've been eager for him to get to junior high because I anticipated he'd be allowed to study the more advanced math subjects. In my day (when we trudged through the snow, uphill, both ways, naturally,) sixth-graders who had math aptitude could take an advanced math class traditionally populated by eighth-graders, for example. And there were some kids who took high-school or college level math, usually through independent studies that excused them from attending a class that would bore them otherwise.

But apparently all sixth-graders will take a general "6th Grade Math" and so on. Everyone will be the same. Everyone will learn what is expected for the 'average' student.

At this point, my son's teacher is giving him extra "challenge" problems to play with when the rest of the class is being taught the traditional "5th Grade Math." But of course, according to his report card, he "meets grade level standards" and that is that. Just Average.

Comments (5)

Bill:

That's pathetic. It's bad enough that schools are cutting classes due to no money (although wasted money is probably more like it), but at least I understand the concept of not being able to afford something. But I'd love to hear their reasoning on why you can't exceed the grade level.

The more time goes on, the more sick I am of the way everything is run. Yet the system seems more and more broken, too. I just don't see how it's at all fixable without starting over.

Signed, Dr. Optimist. LOL

Nicole:

Ergh, don't get me started. We met to ensure our son was in the advanced math, and even though he's not exceedingly challenged at least loves his teacher to death. At our school they do still give out 4s, which means exceeds (I'm still giving my little jock a hard time about his 3 in PE :) but here is what my principle said (paraphrasing) "we don't have math advanced enough for him here, but what's the point, unless he's going to get a degree in a math related field. He'll just run out of math classes eventually anyway." I know she was frustrated by the end of the meeting, but I nearly lost it. The reality is most of the focus is on getting the kids up to speed, passing the tests. Pitiful, because the point is not to "advance" your kid but to keep him interested, wanting to learn more, keep challenging him so he (or she) will continue to want to learn for the rest of their lives. What I really don't want to do is have him do extra at home to make up for the easy stuff in school, wastes all of our time. And I am afraid to look too closely at our middle school :)

I don't even understand report cards anymore. Ours still has the "exceeds" designation, but only in some categories. Then there are weird letter grades of A-Z for different abilities and some have number grades - all on one report card! Whatever happened to A, B, C, D, and F?

Cordy is reading at a second or third grade level now, and at the moment her teacher has said she'll just have to do more reading at home, because they can't support her advanced reading at school. She would be advanced in math if they didn't keep confusing her by making her learn so many different ways to show the same thing.

They have gifted ed for kids in her district, but it doesn't start until fourth grade, and even then is limited. But there are plenty of supports and classes in place for remedial education. I think it's a shame that we're neglecting the best of our kids' talents in order to make sure everyone else meets "average."

Pat:

That's what is happening in US of A, lets make all students average so no ones feelings are hurt. It is called PC, the schools no longer care or want to encourage students to do their best.
Feelinf sorry for the Cat and his friends as they are already asking "why do our best if the state's education department and schools only want them to be average". Not a good way of thinking on anybody's part. The Cat will never be happy being just"average"! Wish he was old enough to attend a MSS school.

I have heard a lot about that... a lot of schools are starting to focus completely on kids who are "falling behind," because they're so concerned about the school's test scores. Kids who are doing "fine" will do well on the tests, so they are just supposed to sit around and enjoy the ride I guess! :(
By the way I just re-found your blog... I used to blog at "They're all our children" and later "Slow down gym shoe." I've now started a new blog about my adventures becoming a student teacher!

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