August 15, 2008

Perhaps I am simply too "rules-bound" to comprehend this. Perhaps I am, indeed, now an old fogey, months before my 40th birthday.

Or perhaps the Dallas school system has gone completely and totally insane.

Apparently, deadlines no longer matter. Turning in crappy homework does not matter. Flunking a test doesn't matter.

A run-down of the new policy (from the Dallas Morning News):

  • Homework grades should be given only when the grades will "raise a student's average, not lower it."
  • Teachers must accept overdue assignments, and their principal will decide whether students are to be penalized for missing deadlines.
  • Students who flunk tests can retake the exam and keep the higher grade.
  • Teachers cannot give a zero on an assignment unless they call parents and make "efforts to assist students in completing the work."

The purported reason? To make grading fair across all of the schools.

Actually, DISD, the result will be utter chaos. Children need rules and boundaries and an explanation of those rules and boundaries. Now, students in Dallas will be getting a mixed message - the teacher says "Your spelling assignment is due Monday morning." But if you forget to do it or to turn it in, that no longer matters.

So, let me get this straight. These kids are going to learn that deadlines are optional. That there is always a reset button on the game of school. That learning new material is optional and on your own time table?

Yes, there is a time for compassion with students. When you have to weigh circumstances - just as a boss might weigh circumstances with an employee. It's hard to make that perfectly "fair" in written rules. After all, those written rules and policies are what have given us zero tolerance policies.

And here's where the seeming contradiction comes in - circumstances always matter. But you can't "legislate" them. A zero tolerance policy for fighting can see a kid who literally fought back to protect himself from serious bodily harm - or perhaps even death - suspended for fighting. The circumstances should matter - and they require discretion, which is, by definition, not completely fair on paper.

Why does Johnny get to turn his paper in three days late? Well, because his parents were in a wreck and in the hospital. The circumstances matter.

But a policy of "take it when they turn it in" is only going to create chaos. Why bother to do your homework Thursday night when all of your favourite TV shows are on? The teacher has to take it on Tuesday (don't wanna do work over the weekend, after all).

And what about the teachers? Most of them are ridiculously over-worked as it is. Now, they have to keep teaching material that they've already covered, continue grading tests and homework as endlessly as the students turn it in.

This is ridiculous.

There are no endless do-overs in life. You occasionally earn one - but it's never a guarantee. There are no rules saying if you screw up at work, you'll get a do-over. Maybe you lose your job and your house. Maybe your boss takes pity on your and gives you another shot. You make a wrong step down into your garage, maybe you scrape your knee, maybe you just get jostled, maybe you break your leg and can't walk for four months.

School teaches us so much more than the lesson plans our teachers prepare, more than the curriculum designed by the school system. It should also teach us about how the world outside of our families work.

Enough with the mollycoddling and concern with self-esteem taken to a harmful level. Train your teachers in the ethics of grading. In the psychology of both failure and self-esteem. Train them to be strong and compassionate, both.

There are no do-overs. What are we teaching these kids?

Posted by Red Monkey at August 15, 2008 9:23 AM | Why Johnny Won't Learn and Mrs. Curnutt Is Tired of the System | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Mark Stoneman said:

Are you sure you didn't somehow confuse August 15th and April 1st? I know you grew up in Texas, but maybe they do it differently there now and this is just a huge practical joke?

I am amazed. There are many things schools and universities do that get my goat, but this one would be my breaking point. Besides teaching students all the wrong lessons, it sends a signal to teachers that the system doesn't trust them as professionals and does not stand behind them in any way whatsoever. That's a double whammy for any teacher who sees the "job" as a vocation, which is most teachers.

August 15, 2008 11:47 AM


trysh said:

Why am I not surprised? The way things have been going in the schools, this had to come. I pity the teachers - and wish they had the gumption to resign 'en masse' over this - for this rule really means there is no 'school' anyway.
Excuse me while I go throw up over the thought of these kids growing up and running our country...

August 15, 2008 12:26 PM


Wendy said:

Tis a shame that schools and teachers can't go back to the old way of teaching.

Fail the kid if they aren't passing. Heaven forbid that they should actually learn something before being moved ahead.

Discipline should follow right behind.

I feel sorry for the teachers these days. Wouldn't want thir job for all the tea in China

August 15, 2008 1:43 PM

First of all: 40 years old does NOT an "old fogey" make. :)

I couldn't agree more with this article. Dallas as well as other areas in the US have their share of issues in the ways of teaching and attempting to educate our children! The question is: What can we do? Great article!

I wanted to take the liberty of questioning our governments policies on education funds as well. Not only are teachers WAY underpaid across the country, but the overwhelming budget cuts on education have cut more teaching positions than imaginable. Where is the money and why do some states have to suffer so badly? (Florida for instance) Teachers are underpaid, can't find jobs and it is indeed the children who suffer, but so do the teachers looking to do what they do best AND support their families. It's a mess. Is there an end? I don't know.

Please submit your great blog to It would fit in very well there, give you exposure and traffic and make for some great conversations!

Again, great article!
Doc KC

August 15, 2008 2:27 PM


lulubelle b said:

I left Dallas 3 1/2 years ago. The public schools were awful. Less than half of the students who started high school actually graduated. The DISD school board was a freak show. When I first moved there in the mid 1990s, fist fights used to break out at school board meetings. I clearly remember video of people slamming each other with folding chairs...just like WWF. They had to bring in the New Black Panthers for security. It may have improved since then, but this latest change doesn't surprise me at all. It's probably a scheme to boost graduation rates for NCLB.

August 15, 2008 7:27 PM


PandoraWilde said:

The worst part of how this policy affects the classroom is that now what your teacher says doesn't matter--if you don't like the grade you got turning in your papers late, you can go to the principal and make the teacher give you a better grade.

If you have a C running and don't care if it's higher, you don't even have to DO the damn homework! It doesn't change your grade--if you like your C, screw it--play Guitar Hero instead.

Most of all it affects discipline--the whole policy makes teachers babysitters and ineffective ones at that. What the hell got into Dallas' school system anyhow and how long will it be before they just hire people with daycare certifications and be done with it? It's just sad.

August 19, 2008 2:26 AM


Nancy said:

Man, when I attended school, I sat in the back and read, refusing to do any homework at all. It was a silent protest of many things, in school and out. Then, it was of it will be standard practice. ( well, not the reading, i dont see how anyone is going to learn that skill...)

August 20, 2008 5:11 PM


New Age Bitch said:

Nice parsing of a ridiculous policy. RIP Dallas school students, teachers.

August 25, 2008 11:23 AM


Bobbi said:

And I thought California schools were bad. The kids here are spoiled brats who expect everything handed to them or done for them. A policy like this makes it too easy for a child to not learn a thing, or respect authority. How is this college or real world preparatory? I'm all for self esteem, but this, in no way, fosters that. Why bother when they know they don't have to do, or even do better. It's time to stop treating kids like they are forever babies, and bring them back to the standards that we were under when we were in school. This not only angers me, but it saddens me to see that now schools will have no way to teach things to make the students the kind of adults we all had to learn to be.

In the real world deadlines are set and expected to be met or the next person will get the job and the slacker will stand in the unemployment line like it should be.

Buy the way, compared to me, 40 is young.

September 1, 2008 9:03 PM
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