Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Expect Little -- and Get it Much of the Time

According to a trusted source, the Plano Independent School District has implemented at the elementary level, and will likely soon do so at the middle and high school levels, policies that will restrict the ability of teachers to require achievement from their students. Under the policies, teachers are not allowed to give zeroes for work that is not turned in, are not allowed to give scores below 50%, and are required to accept and give full credit for work that is up to 3 weeks late.

Why is the school district doing this? While much of Plano, Texas -- a suburb on the north side of Dallas -- is affluent, the city also includes housing projects and a large number of apartments inhabited by families of limited means. As with lower income groups in other communities, children in those households, for varying reasons, tend not to do as well in school. In some instances, parents working long hours are not around to help their children with homework.

That being stated, those who understand that a good education provides the best opportunity for impoverished children to escape poverty cannot overstate the level of disdain that these types of policies deserve. Lowering expectations is tantamount to sentencing these kids to failure, as these kids will not be academically prepared to compete in the real world of work once they leave school. In addition, these sorts of policies typify the kind of thinking that leads to ever worsening academic results. Half of Texas high school graduates entering college require remedial classes for which they receive no credit at the university. That represents a fundamental failure of the school system.

These types of policies also point to a reason why good and dedicated teachers all too often end up throwing their hands up in frustration and deciding to go do something else. Good teachers typically enter the profession because they care about kids and want to make a difference in their lives. They don't make great money and frequently are not shown the respect they deserve. If pointy headed bureaucrats restrict their ability to make a difference, then why bother?

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