Looks like we’re going to need Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) again. Perhaps she can help with the shortage of Band-Aids in the Rio Grande Valley (and likely in other parts of the state, as well).
It all started when Nelson, a former teacher, authored SB 2033, a law prohibiting school districts from requiring teachers to give minimum (AKA unearned) grades to students. Shocked to learn just how prevalent this practice is, Nelson decided to make it illegal.
Few teachers would be surprised to learn that countless districts throughout the state ignored the new law, which went into effect during the 2009-2010 school year, claiming that it only applied to class assignments, not to progress reports or report cards. How ludicrous. What would be the point of forbidding districts from forcing teachers to give a minimum grade for a class assignment if the district could still force the minimum grade on report cards?
The Texas Education Agency even sent a letter out to districts across the state, clearly establishing the intent of the law. Many districts snubbed the letter. This stunned Sen. Nelson, but it didn’t surprise many teachers.
Eleven school districts from the Houston area filed a lawsuit claiming SB 2033 had “vague” language. But in late June, a state district judge shot down their argument, “saying the legislation was ‘not ambiguous’ and reflected the legislature’s intent to protect teachers from having to give grades that aren’t earned,” according to a story in the June 29 issue of dallasnews.com. The story points to State Education Commissioner Robert Scott as the triggerman who “triggered the lawsuit when he issued a directive to school districts telling them that under the new law, all report cards must reflect ‘honest grades’ for each grading period.”
So here we are, five months later, and I’m not sure Sen. Nelson would believe it if she could hear the stories of just how creative districts can be to prevent teachers from actually reporting those honest grades.
Last week I received a call from a friend who teaches at one of the Early College High School programs in the Valley. The teachers at her school were called to a faculty meeting and told that the failure rate is too high. Get out the Band-Aids. The teachers were advised that they were all required to develop packets of work for all students who did not earn a passing grade. Those students must stay after school one-and-a-half hours for 12 days and complete the work and “Voila!” they will pass. So much for honest grades.
Other districts are suddenly implementing mandatory re-testing Band-Aids. Oops, I mean policies. While re-testing once was left to the teachers’ discretion, to be utilized in special cases, it is now being required. These teachers are also being told students must be allowed to re-do any assignments given a test grade. Instead of addressing the poor work ethic of students and fixing the problem, we take out another box of Band-Aids.
It’s all so confusing. Why do we have college readiness standards? Why are there conversations about rigor? If we continue to apply Band-Aids instead of addressing the issues preventing success, we cannot have rigor and we definitely will not prepare our students for college.
Let’s pretend there really is a shortage of Band-Aids and stop using them. Let’s face the facts. Our high school students do not have the organizational and study skills they need to be successful in high school or in college. They need to learn how to use planners effectively, how to create study groups, the importance of completing all assigned work and how to study “smarter.” If we really want to do our jobs, we must teach them these skills rather than applying Band-Aids that will be ripped off in college.
Sen. Nelson — we need you again. How about a “Stop the Overuse of Band-Aids Law”?
Chris Ardis is in her 27th year of teaching, 26 of those with McAllen ISD. Visit her web site at www.chrisardis.com to read articles on education, health, mental health, finances and beauty and a monthly column by McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez.