Standards? We Don’t Need No Stinking Standards!

Francisco Duran, superintendent of Arlington County Public Schools

by James A. Bacon

The Arlington County Public School system has designed a sure-fire strategy for ensuring “equitable” educational outcomes — set standards so low that everyone can pass them no matter how little effort they make.

In the process of updating its policies and PIPs (peer intervention programs), Arlington’s school board proposes to change the way grades are administered. As reported by Washington’s ABC-7, preliminary revisions call for:

  • No late penalties for homework, because penalties reflect a student’s behavior, not his or her actual achievement;
  • No extra credit, because the practice penalizes students with fewer resources;
  • Unlimited re-does and re-takes on assignments;
  • No grading for homework, because mistakes are vital to learning, and students are less likely to take risks when they fear they will be graded down for making mistakes.

“There’s no labeling of students or ranking of students,” said Dr. Erin Russo, the Principal of Discovery Elementary, during a meeting discussing the proposal. “It’s the ownership of what do I need to work on and where am I?”

Fortunately, for the cause of sanity, the proposal is getting pushback — from teachers, no less.

In a letter to Superintendent Franciso Duran, teachers from Wakefield High School said the proposal would backfire. If implemented, the changes will result in “the decline of high expectations and rigor.” Accountability in the learning process will exist in theory only, and students from lower-income households will suffer the most.

Aside from learning academic skills, write the teachers, students learn how “to develop organizational, time and stress-management skills…. To achieve these ends, students should be held accountable for completing their work in a timely manner and meeting deadlines that were reasonably established by their teachers.”

New content and concepts build organically upon previously mastered content and concepts, the teachers say. Allowing students to manufacture their own sequence of submissions would hamper mastery moving forward.

Students come to school with varying levels of motivation, ability, background knowledge and work ethic, says the letter. “What message do these proposed policies send to students if they do not complete their work in a timely manner and still get 50% for their missing work? What message do these policies send to a student who met deadlines and received a lower grade than a student who ignored the deadline entirely?”

Here’s the kicker: These policies, designed to promote “equity” (or equal group outcomes) will have the opposite effect.

Families that have means could still provide challenging and engaging academic experiences for their children and will continue to do so, especially if their child(ren) are not experiencing expected rigor in the classroom. More specifically, those families can afford to hire tutors and sign-up their child(ren) to attend enrichment activities and camps in hopes of preparing them for the college application/ admission process. Students who come from families which are not as “savvy” or “aware,” will be subject to further disadvantage because they will not be held accountable for not completing their homework assignments and/or formative assessments according to the deadlines set by their teachers: such results are anything but equitable–conversely, they offer our most needy students reduced probability of preparing for and realizing post-secondary opportunities.

If the discussed changes are implemented, instead of holding students to high academic and personal standards, we are providing them with a variety of excuses and/or enabling them to “game the system,” prompting them to expect the least of themselves in terms of effort, results, and responsibility.

School officials say that the proposals are only a “starting point” and teachers will be given ample opportunity to provide feedback.

On the other hand, the proposals have significant bureaucratic momentum behind them. Beginning in September 2020, nearly 100 administrators and instructional staff participated in a book study of “Grading for Equity” to examine grading practices and how they might be made more “equitable.” Informed by these discussions, proposed revisions were drafted in November.

The approval process will last through the summer of 2022 for implementation in the 2022/23 school year.

Bacon’s bottom line: Virginia’s “progressive” educators have given up lifting up the poor and minorities by demanding more from students and their families. Instead, the educators are setting standards so low that everyone can and will meet them.

Anyone not in the thrall of progressive group-think ideology knows this cannot possibly succeed. As the Wakefield teachers rightfully point out, these revisions will prove most devastating to the students they are designed to help. Affluent parents, determined to get their offspring into college, will supplement schooling with outside resources. Poor parents won’t have the resources, or in many cases the motivation, or even the understanding that schools are failing their children.

Governor-elect Youngkin, you say you want to raise standards in Virginia public schools. Take a look at Arlington County. This is what you’re up against.

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21 responses to “Standards? We Don’t Need No Stinking Standards!”

  1. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    These people are insane.

    1. I see your thought and raise you to complete ‘equity insanity’ — brought to you by Dems… knew it was coming…..

      Washington state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would reduce penalties for drive-by shootings with the goal of “promoting racial equity in the criminal legal system.”

    2. dave schutz Avatar
      dave schutz

      Arlington has made the NY Post for parent mockery of teachers’ union: – it’s not exactly on point for this issue, but I don’t think this would have happened a few years ago.

  2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    I don’t recall, growing up, homework being “graded”. Assignments (like term papers), yes, but homework was typically practice work.

    1. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

      I remember submitting homework and having it come back from the teacher. If she liked it, she gave it an “A.” If she really liked it, she added a rubber stamp, usually a cartoon character. And if she really, really liked it, she added a “star” (a sticker). So, students went through the year making sure everyone knew it when they had earned an “A, stamp, star” on their homework. Now, almost 70 years later, my siblings and I continue to evaluate each other by that criteria, lauding one another whenever an “A, stamp, star” is warranted.

    2. how_it_works Avatar

      Homework was graded when I went to school. And if not done that resulted in a “zero” for that assignment.

    3. James Kiser Avatar
      James Kiser

      I certainly do remember homework being graded maybe that explains some of your comments here.

      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        Well, I guess your teachers needed to give you some extra bites at the apple…. some students need “special” handling…

  3. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    Before the SOL, standards were only what teachers expected kids to learn. So if you didn’t learn to read, no problem for a kid in Petersburg as it was expected, but a real problem in Lexington where all 3rd graders were expected to be on grade level. The sup doesn’t realize that Standards and accountability for those standards leveled the playing field for poor and minorities. This is equity. The teachers who are upset understand the concept of learning. He does not. He “earned” his because of standards. At least I hope.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      perhaps related to your words.. Matt Hurt from Wise who frequents BR has pointed out that there really is no standard for letter grades anyhow. A teacher is apparently free to decide what an “A” or “B” or whatever is or is not and it may or may not have much of anything to correlation to SOL scorew. IOW, a kid can get “A”s and then fail the SOLs.

      My teacher friend(s) confirm this….

      So just because letter grades are given doesn’t really mean it’s an accurate reflection of the kids academic performance.

      1. how_it_works Avatar

        When I went to school it worked like this.

        Say you took two tests. Both with 10 questions on them.

        On one test, you missed half the questions. So you got an F on that one, 50%.

        On the other test, you answered all the questions correctly. So you got an A on that one, 100%

        Averaged together, 150 divided by 2 gives you a 75%, which was a C where I went to school, if I recall correctly. And if, for the sake of this example, those were the only graded assignments/tests for that semester, you got a C for the semester.

        That’s how it used to work. And homework and other assignments were graded similarly and added into the average.

        1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
          Eric the half a troll

          From my kid’s experience, they considered graded homework to be the way to bring a B test average up to an A for the class. Easy A’s if they did the work given that it each assignment is essentially an open book quiz with no time limit.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar

            The purpose of homework is to ensure the student is engaging in the work to do better on tests. It’s not about making anything and easy A. So education is yet another field where you have zero knowledge, shocked I tell you, shocked.

  4. When was the last time any student failed and had to repeat a grade? Any stats on that?

  5. John Harvie Avatar
    John Harvie

    My mother who taught grammar, yes I said grammar… At Binford JHS for many years and she assigned homework. She graded it and factored in homework in your overall grade … and, you’d better at least make an attempt at it and … get it in on time on time.

    She’s probably revolving now. She graduated from VA Normal School, I think that was the name then (now JMU) in about 1924. Actually graduating in those days was an accomplishment in itself for a farm woman from Churchville.

    We lived only about two blocks from Binford, but she made me go way west end to Albert Hill for JHS lest some of her teacher friends treat me too favorably. Interesting bike ride in JROTC uniform with clarinet case and books.

    Our Mr. Whitehead can probably identify with such a teacher.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Mom was right Mr. Harvie. I used to require the same thing in 11th grade US History. 1012 page text book with 3,495 questions for HW. I had to give it up when Loudoun declared no HW can be graded. That HW raised reading comprehension to high levels. Did the same with 4 other books, American Sphinx, Band of Brothers, Killer Angels, and To Appomattox. The new vocab words learned would start showing up in their essays.

    2. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

      Mr. Harvie, thank you for sharing your experience. I can identify. My mother was from Raccoon Ford, Virginia, on the banks of the Rapidan, and she and her four sisters pursued teaching degrees. They graduated between 1930 and 1945. Most of them went to Farmville (now Longwood). They were strict grammarians, and they raised families that enjoyed reading, writing, and speaking. I never thought twice about my love of reading, but now I understand that few of my peers were reading back then, or now.

    3. LarrytheG Avatar

      As a military brat, I attended at least 6 different schools in 6 different states and “standards” were an interesting concept not only for homework but other things like grading and grading scale.

      At one school, we got credit for turning in homework – but no grading. Just credit for doing your homework and random pop quizzes.

      There are lots of different ways to do it and no one way is the only “right’ way. Teachers only have so much time for grading papers and most end up doing it at home because class time is teaching time.

      Kids of poorly-educated, low income parents have challenges – that are really not the kids fault and those parents often don’t have good reading skills themselves and may well not be much help on the homework. This is one of the primary issues with the Pre-K programs. Kids of poorly-educated parents do not get as much help in learning to read and they need time on task that is provided by educators instead , IF the programs are available.

      For me , I ask, if the parent is poorly educated, works at low income jobs , lives in a low-income neighborhood and the kid goes to a neighborhood school – does that kid have the same opportunity to learn and succeed?

      Kids in those circumstances also often live chaotic lives, with AWOL parents, getting evicted and moving around and staying with different relatives – all the time attending different schools with no constant and consistent environment for learning.

      Is this the kids fault?

      Do we just walk away from those kids and essentially say , like some do here in BR, that those kids are just ‘screwed’ and they cannot be really helped – they grow up like their parents poorly-educated and dependent on entitlements and unfit to really help THEIR kids succeed.

      In this country, we have far more income inequity than most other developed nations. We have generational poor, a continuing cycle because we never manage to intervene and help the kid escape their disadvantaged circumstances.

      this is what DEI is about. To recognize the plight of the kids who don’t have well-educated parents with good incomes and a culture of learning and reading.

  6. James Kiser Avatar
    James Kiser

    Calvin ball rules where the rules are made up on the spot and the results don’t matter. When the boomer generation dies this country dies.

  7. LarrytheG: “Do we just walk away from those kids and essentially say, like some do here in BR, that those kids are just ‘screwed’ and they cannot be really helped.”

    More nonsense from LarryWorld. Cite me a single example of someone on BR saying this.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      It’s well represented…. any casual reader will see it in many posts…

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