Joanna Conti: Preparing Students for the Real World
Anne Arundel County Public Schools is implementing a new grading policy in the fall that will be detrimental to both our students and teachers. Among other things, the new policy (link downloads PDF) allows middle and high school students to retake tests and redo projects without penalty, with only the higher score being calculated into their grade. The policy also guarantees students a minimum grade of 50 percent on any work they attempt and allows them to turn in work up to five days past the deadline.
The thinking behind these policies is clearly well-meaning. If a student is working hard but not understanding a subject, we don’t want to so penalize them that they give up trying. But there must be a better way to address these situations that does not eliminate the incentive for students to do their best work the first time and on time.
A 2006 national study of over 400 employers by The Conference Board found that the most important attribute employers are looking for in high school graduates is professionalism/work ethic, defined as demonstrating personal accountability and effective work habits such as punctuality, working productively with others, and time and workload management. Unfortunately, as reported in “Are They Really Ready to Work?”, 70.3 percent of the employers who took the survey rated high school graduates as deficient in this area.
We should be challenging our students to develop the self-discipline they need to be successful in the real world rather than encouraging procrastination and mediocrity. Human nature being what it is, who wouldn’t be tempted to roll the dice and forgo studying for a test if you knew you could always take the test again later?
The proposed policies also impose a tremendous additional burden on our teachers, many of whom are already dealing with large class sizes and teaching new curricula. Teachers must now plan to reteach the material in an assignment or on a test within five days of returning it, with such reteaching to be provided before, during or after school hours. They must also develop a new test and, of course, grade the resubmitted work again. For these reasons, many members of the TAAAC committee of high school teachers have expressed concerns about the new policy.
The schools that stand the best chance of creating the leaders of the future will set high expectations for mastery, push their students hard, and reward the development of a strong work ethic. Instead of promoting excellence, these new grading policies will place an additional burden on our teachers and lead to a reduction in the self-discipline so crucial to the long-term success of our students.
Joanna Conti, a mother of four, has been working to improve schools for more than a decade. In the 2010 election cycle, Conti was the Democratic challenger to Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold. Conti can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.