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Keiser's Role: Bar for student achievement should be raised



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February 13, 2013 - "Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an excercise by means of which enough men, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth having." – President Ronald Reagan

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Oxford High School's Principal Todd Dunckley and discuss the school's attendance policy/incentive.

Basically the way the incentive works is if a student has only three absences or less, has never had in or out of school suspension and has a passing grade of at least 68 percent in their class they may be exempt from their final exam. Now, for those of you who may not know, 68 percent on a 4.0 grading scale is the letter grade of a D+.

When I heard the minimum requirement was a D + I was shocked, but what really shocked me was 68 percent was "upping the ante" from last year's requirement of a "passing grade." meaning a student could have a 60 percent or a D - for a grade and still not have to take a final exam.

I talked to a friend of mine who graduated from Oxford 15 years ago and she said the requirement was at least a B grade and only five absences in order to be exempt from a final exam.

So, when I asked Todd about why the percentage rate was so low he told me it was aimed towards "at risk" students. At risk meaning they are pretty much failing every class or they are at risk of throwing in the towel and quitting school. While I understand the desire to keep every kid in school, I don't believe challenging students to barely pass their class is pushing them to their full potential.

I get that not every student will be strong in every subject they study. Some subjects will come easy and others will require more work. Using myself as an example I always did well in English Class and usually pulled an A or B. In math I struggled since first grade. If I got a C + in math it was pretty good, but if I pushed myself a little+ harder I was able to pull that B -.

If the goal of the incentive is simply to get butts in the seats, then you're doing your job, but if the goal is to challenge students through education and push them to a better tomorrow than I think you're missing the mark.

I don't think it's too much to ask any student to achieve a middle of line letter grade of a C in any given subject. Will they achieve it in every class? Maybe, maybe not, but lets not cut their potential from the get go.

There is value in learning that to achieve a goal is going to require some sweat and a little bit a tears, but just because you don't achieve your goal the first time doesn't mean you give up trying. If the standard is set that "everybody wins" then we are raising up a generation who expect to have everything handed to them in the name of "fairness."

Life isn't fair. We win sometimes, we lose sometimes, but we never should give up reaching for our full potential.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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