Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why are kids failing?

This is a question that has riddled me all semester. I have changed my grades to reflect a "truer" grade. In my 9th grade classes, I have 3 categories: homework/responsibility where students can turn in late work for 50% of its worth; reading applications and analysis where students can do any assignment for 100% of its worth as well as the writing category where again students can do (and re-do) any assignment for 100%. This allows for penalties with day-to-day work, but allows for growth in the 2 categories key to English class. Out of my 49 9th graders, 21 students have low D's and F's. I have 10 F's in my 4th hour alone!

So what is the problem? I have contacted parents, written referrals, talked one on one with students, and have talked to my classes as a whole. A few minor assignments trickle in, but still the low grades remain.

One girl did take advantage of the grading and "opportunity to learn" (although I doubt she saw it this way since it was her mother's warning of being grounded the rest of the semester until her grades went up); she worked with me twice a week during school for 4 hours, and every day after school--for a consecutive 2 1/2 weeks. She was able to complete work, but more importantly, she re-did writing assignments and reading analysis assignments. We talked about her growth and improvement of her grade; "I'm so glad, Mrs. Davis. Thank you for all your help. I really thought it was impossible." This gave me insight, of course. Were others feeling deflated?

I visited with the class, explained about the success of one student who brought her grade up from a 17% F to an 80% B-. Two weeks have gone by and still no improvement. In fact, I had an assignment due yesterday that only 3 students out of 25 turned in...in 4th hour!

Is it this class? Is it my style? I personally feel I am teaching skills more than complacency, but then why are kids revolting? Is it that these students don't connect with me as a teacher? Overall from these kids I hear, "You're my favorite teacher, Mrs. Davis."; "This is my favorite class" from these folks failing and yet no work. Is it just how they are??! Are they lazy, apathetic, overwhelmed? Should I settle with the fact that almost half of them are failing, but that it's their issue?

When I started teaching, I taught at a private school; we could keep students who were failing after school for grammar class or writing workshops. Students really improved. Of course, they had the same conversations with their parents as my one student above had about being grounded for grades. Is it the extra demands of both the teacher and parents? Is that the only difference? Have my 9th grade parents today have given up?

Or...is it a scarier reality: I have made the grading seem too easy and thus, students feel they can just slide along, turn a couple things in and their grade inches up enough to get by? The first 9 weeks I thought this could be the case, but as I continue to talk to my students, they do not come in to get help.

I talked with our gifted/talented, at-risk teacher. She pulled grades related to middle schools students attended. Almost an even split. We did find out that out of our approx. 500 9th graders, 110 of them are failing at least one of their classes, if not 3 or 4. This too was shocking.

So, students, WHY are so many of you failing?

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41 Comments:

At 7:38 PM, Blogger Sohne said...

My thoughts... your learners today are different... they need to deeply understand the relationship to what they are learning and their lives. They need to, more importantly, contribute to their learning. They don't care about the "grade"... they care that their voice is heard, that they are in control of their learning, that they have choice. Have you tried not requiring them spit out information, but rather to take a stand (let's face it, most HS students dig that opportunity) and provide evidence, of their choice, within your parameters, to defend their choice.

They may not have it in their heads, but I'll bet they know where to find it. That's the milleniel learner.

PS LOVE the fact that you are willing to take the risk to blog about it!

 
At 8:33 PM, Blogger Harris_Dubya said...

My three years at Arapahoe have been a pattern of up and down grades that I have had to deal with in most arenas of study. I have yet to find the real answer to this seemingly fixable paradigm. Am I just lazy? Do I just not care? Of course my answer will be no, but why in God's name would I ever stoop to blaming myself for my own problems. This is exactly the predicament that teachers are faced with when they ask their students face to face, "Why are you failing?” Kids do not like to outwardly condemn themselves even when the problem obviously lies within them. I know that I don't.

I have realized that my problems stemmed from a one time occurrence when I decided that "I just didn't have to do that assignment". 9th graders especially gain this mentality, and the teacher needs to jump in right away when that assignment is not turned in and get them to do it. I think back to fifth grade, when I still lived in Texas, my teacher Mrs. Jones would give you a Wal-Mart bag to put your stuff in and you would sit on the floor if you didn't turn in your work. Why did this seem to work? Cause it embarrassed the crap out of you! In some of my classes if an assignment is not turned in teachers just walk right past, they don't even seem to care. Now I understand that in high school as a means to prepare you for college teachers allow you to be more dependent. However, ninth graders are not even thinking about college, save for the few that want to be valedictorians and eventually go to Harvard or other over- achiever schools. That is the time that teachers need to crack down on that eighth grade mentality still held over from the middle school years. And you can’t blame parents either because I know some pretty strict parents whose kids slack off just as much.

It scares me to think that I may have jeopardized my future by slacking off and turning in assignments late my sophomore year. Now we don't want to frighten the little munchkins, but they need to know that their futures do really depend on it as we voyage into an increasingly educationally driven world where college degrees don't come to those who just slack and think they can turn it in later.

There are teachers out there that will tell their kids in the classroom that grades don't matter as much as learning the subject. C'mon...do you really believe that universities care how well you learned the subject? No they don't they're looking for consistency and a few extra-curricular activities along the way.

"Speak softly, but carry a big stick", Roosevelt knew what he was talking about. Teachers when a student falls behind take them aside and hit them with that stick...just kidding! If a kid falls lower than the majorities’ level, do take them aside and make them make up those assignments. If I was doing horrible I would want a strong yet guiding hand to lead me in the right direction. Tell them it’s their future; nurture it to its full potential. This isn't middle school anymore, tell them they need to prove themselves in the world, as a strong individual willing to work hard to achieve what they were put on this earth for. And that is to find what they are meant to be, trust me when I say their response won’t go something like, "I was meant to be nothing". Everybody has dreams and the attainability of those dreams depends on one's ability to get things done.

Keep it real...
Just some thoughts I had swimming in my head.

 
At 7:41 AM, Blogger lgaffney said...

I've been asking myself a similar question, Michele. I essentially have the same grading categories and similar policies with regard to these categories. I wonder if your last question and if your second poster are correct--when we say, "yes you can re-do things", and "yes you can turn them in late", are we communicating that punctuality and responsibility are not things we value? I am not the type of person to get upset with a student about not turning in his or her work; to me, it is their grade and their learning. But does this passivity communicate a message that it doesn't matter? I am interested to know where these thought processes lead you.

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger Davis said...

Thank you for your thoughts!

Ms. Gaffney, I too have wondered about this grading issue. Is that the message we are sending...we are lax with our due dates; thus, kids take assignments not as seriously? I would love to visit with Tony Winger about this issue. Maybe we have final due dates within each unit that work needs to be completed by. But, would this still send the message that students can do it whenever they feel within a 6-week timeline?

Harris, how interesting. I think you are discussing what Ms. Gaffney is wondering. Because we do not crash down hard on kids when they miss work...does this promote their apathy? I feel, though, that it shouldn't be my job to be the sergeant; I want to teach, inspire, and try to get kids to be better readers and writers. I understand that that means some kids will misinterpret my grading as an easy-out, but obviously it is not. Kids are still getting poor grades despite my flexibility. Not sure how to remedy this. Why should I have to FORCE someone to do work?

Sohne, I totally agree that today's learners are different. I try to be engaging, using YouTube, music, interactive activities in class, technology, etc. so that kids feel connected to English. They seem to be. I never am lacking in student interest! But, it's the first semester where grades are so dismal. I also have fishbowls, in-class participation points attached to speaking, etc. Just like all assignments, some students do well and others not so much. I am just seeing, like Ms. Gaffney said, a new level of passivity about grades.

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger andy p said...

I think the reason the kids are failing is they arent trying hard enough. Its not that there stupid, they just dont care. I also think you should try to help the kids out, and not let them fend for themslves, but if you keep trying and they dont listen, there is only so much you can do.

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger Angela J said...

I think so many students are failing because we are just getting lazier with the end of the semester. Also, one thing I have noticed is that we have gotten less disciplined in the past few months, which is making us more unruly and lazy now. But I have noticed my grade is lower than I would like it now, but I have gotten normal to high grades on almost every assignment.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Mara said...

I think that kids are failing because they are lazy or just don't care about theeir grades.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Cara G said...

Mrs. Davis,
I love your class. I think that you give people great opportunities. I think everyone should have an A-B in this class. You are my favorite teacher that i have this semester. I am definently going to miss you when you are gone.
From your student,
Cara Giancaterino

 
At 9:42 AM, Blogger Sam H said...

I think that it's not your fault that they are failing. It's the students fault. I mean maybe you could have more strict grading policies. But truthfully, if they don't want to do the work, thats their decision, it's only going to hurt them in the long run. Also, i think their is no problem with your teaching. I have learned so much. So if they want to fail they are missing out on opportunities of learning and will probably miss out on some opportunities later down the road. For example, my friend that is a senior didn't do so well freshman year and now even though he hs done great the other three years he won't be able to go to the colleges he wanted to.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger psemin said...

I think that so many people are failing because they are laxzy and dont want to do the work anymore. It is not that your grading system is easy it can be quite hard when it comes to writing which i suck at. Again they have just given up on themselves and dont care anymore so they do not apply themselves like they should. It is a pretty scary thought that 10 people are failing in one class and not very many are turning in assignments like the 3 out of 25. Soon they will realize that they need to try and will start to aplly themselves.

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger chris h said...

I think that the reason kids are failing your class is because they aren't trying. I think that your class is really easy compared to my other teachers. You hardly give out any work and if we do the little work you assign is easy. I just think that the kids aren't trying and its not your fault.

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger Alexandra K said...

I agree but I also need help i just don't know when to come in for help

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger Ryan W said...

It's by far the students fault look at the students whom are failing they have done the homework never and they dont study so thers no way it could be your fault.

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger andrewh said...

I think that kids fail for many differrent reasone. It could be because they just dont care about theire grades or it could be that they ditch class sometimes or that they do the work but dont put enough effort into it and dont try to do extra things to get the tgrade up.
andrew hay

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger lydia said...

I think that grades are sliding because people are getting more and more lazy. Theres not really a consequence for us if we don't turn our hw in, besides the fact that grades go down I guess though that some people just don't care . I guess thats their problem though.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger SilwanA8 said...

Hey Mrs. Davis
your awsome and i love you!
but i think people are failing beacuse they are stressed out and there just laxy and don't care.

Silwan

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger mollym said...

Kids are Failing and just don’t care and there are a lot of kids like that coming out of Powell. We had a teacher Mrs.Clary but she always let us slack off and turn things in later and later she never put her foot down and said it is due when it’s due you don’t get it in on time and it will be late and you will lose points. She is a push over and I noticed to keep my grades up I have to forget my bad habits from last year. It might also be the kids that have there iPods in during your lecture. Sure you can let us have them in class while we are silently working but not while you talk. They may say they are listening but there brains are not. Maybe you should split your 4th hour up as well if they are distracting each other and put them in your other class periods.

 
At 9:57 AM, Blogger ~Sam~ said...

I think that students are failing because they think they can be lazy for the beginning of school and they think they can come in last minute and think they can bring there grades up that easy and it wont take a lot of work so they don’t try hard. When students bring in late work 50% is taken off instantly. But I think the main reason is that students are getting lazy.

 
At 10:02 AM, Blogger AJL said...

I think students are failing because they feel stresed about all the work in classes and homework and other things in their life that they don't want to do any more than they allready have. I also think that they don't want to try because all the work they get is too hard and complicated.

 
At 10:13 AM, Blogger Meagan D said...

I think that it is the kids fault because they don’t apply themselves, at the beginning of the year I didn’t do anything and I fell behind. If kids are falling then all they have to do is talk to you, set up a time to talk whether it is on an off hour or after school, and then go in!! I don’t think it is your teaching style at all; it’s the students being lazy and not caring enough to go in. Plus in the long run it will only hurt them. I also think that the kids that have their I-pods on is a distraction to them because they look like they are listening but they aren't.

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger Kenzie B. said...

In my opinion, I think that kids are failing because they aren't listening in class. Most of them are talking too much for the ones that want to hear to be able to get the instructions for assignments. The class is too distracting and people aren't listening to the instuctions and only get half of the assignment done because they were talking. I know there are times where I'm trying to hear the assignment, but i cant because there is too much noise.

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger Austin said...

I think that kids are failing because they either don't care about their grades or because they just have too many things to do. Personally I have a low grade because if I don't do something I will put it off and my grade will go down. But as long as you do your homework and assignments it should be fine.

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Scott B said...

i think despite the ability to make up all assignments, some are worth too much, and although a lack of homework is good, large worth assignments make huge dents if not treated correctly, so a few more lower value and fewer high value, then it would not seem as hard to make them up.

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger Bobbie said...

I think that kids really dont care anymore. They are blowing off the class and not really caring what happens anymore. But the freshmen hear things like you'll have to repeat the class and things like that. Maybe they just dont beleive it.

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger ryan said...

i think that kids are used to their parrents to do all the hard work for them and are the ones pushing them. without them kids dont care and it shows in their grades.

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger colleennO said...

I think kids are failing because they either don't make an effort to help their grade and they think that somehow they will pass through. Also some kids are so overloaded with stress they don't feel the need.

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger CraigR said...

I think that a lot of kids have been missing school, and it's hard to make assignments up because you don't get the same instuction as evreyone else. Some really smart kids are failing becuase of missing assignments. I also think the transition from middle to high school is hard. It's a totally different atmosphere with different responsibilities. I think that the teachers should talk to the kids who are failing and try to help them out.

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger Benjamin C said...

I think kids are failing because they are not applying themselves and taking this class as a joke. They just sort of ignore homework and clown around in class. IF they fall behind they don't bother to catch up again, and the fact I don't believe we have too many grades in this class.

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger logan g said...

I dont think that kids are failing based on their knowledge I think it is because of the will. Kids automaticlly think that English is an easy class that you can just show up to and pass but thats not true. I think most of the kids are failing just because they are lazy and dont turn in the homework, even though it isnt very hard. If you put in even a little bit of effort its really easy to get a good grade and they need to relize that.

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger Chandlerl said...

I think that what makes someone have a bad grade, is the willing not to try. Maybe if the tried and took credits and extra credit they might have a better grade. This will help their gpa. Also i think that private schools will also help.

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger cburke17 said...

I think there is a wide variety of reasons for kids failing in this class. Some kids have a lot to do outside of school and are busy and have things to do almost non-stop when they aren't even at school. It is a problem that many students have but there are others that just don't care and just don't feel like they have to do their work and that is their fault. Truly, I think kids are failing for many reasons.

 
At 10:50 AM, Blogger Emma said...

I think that the students are failing becaus they are lazy about doing the work even if they probably get it. If your not doing your homework then your grades will drop. I dont think its your t eaching style I think its that the students aren't applying themselves. Its probably not that they aren't understanding the work its probably that they are to lazy to do it. And if they aren't understanding the work then they should come in for help

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger KaitlynF said...

I think that the reason so many kids are failing is because they don't pay attention or they don't try. I know that in our class, there is always texting and the work we are supposed to do isn't being done. I think that some of the kids that are failing are taking advantage of the class. We get to listen to our ipods when writing and we get to use laptops. Im sure that most of the time the work that we are supposed to be doing on the laptops is spent emailing or playing games.

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger Justin Y said...

I think the reason kids are failing this class is because there not taking this class seriously and dont take advantage of what are teachers giving us. I think kids are having so much stress on them there just giving up in this class

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger Matt A said...

Ok, i think the students are failing because they don't turn in work and then think to themselves
"it's ok I'll just do some writing and reading crap for 100%"
but then they procrastinate and the stuff never gets done!

(that reminds me i owe you some stuff)

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger morgani said...

i honestly think people who are failing this class because they arent trying hard enough to get a good grade. okay, i guess im not one to say anything because i am guilty of this also. there are times even right now where i have so much stress going on now with grades and homework and colorgaurd takes up most of my time. becoming a student at arapahoe has been really fun, but stressful. its so much more than i expected, its a huge difference from what we were doing before in middle school. i think the teachers need to first try to get to the student and train them.

 
At 11:06 AM, Blogger AshlynB said...

Kids are failing because they are not paying attention and they do not do there work. People are not taking this class very seriously.

 
At 11:06 AM, Blogger nickf said...

I think that their are low grades are because kids coming from middle school did'ent think that it would be hard to get their grads up so they slacked off for a whiel now they cant get them up.

 
At 2:20 PM, Blogger Patricia E. Condon said...

I don't agree with you, Sohne. I find that kids are more concerned now more than ever about their grades. The kids who are really more interested in learning for its own sake are few. I have some of them, fortunately, but the majority of my kids are constantly asking about the almighty "grade". Most of them don't want to do much to earn it, they just want a good one!
Kids have changed over the years that I have taught. They are bombarded by information and stressed to the max by activities, work, honors classes, etc. I don't think they have time to think about exactly WHAT they're learning. They are more concerned with learning the information well enough to spit it back correctly on a test!
Michele-The only students that I find revolting are the ones who don't bathe on a regular basis!

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger Keely said...

Hi Michele --
Pardon the intrusion but I am a social studies teacher at LHS and I was reading Karl's blog and I was intrigued by the title of yours on my sidebar so I thought I would check it out. Now that I have I have to say that I am totally taken aback because your class sounds exactly like several of mine at Littleton! I felt like it was me writing by your description!

I also try to encourage the learning by allowing opportunities to turn assignments in late with little penalty. I also try to incorporate a lot of technology to make my class more interactive for 21st century learners. I also have been faced with dismal results! I have so many students that just fail!

I thank you for offering the opportunity to your students to have them comment, but I am shocked by how many stated that they are "just lazy". I wonder is it something that we as educators are allowing to happen? How can we motivate our students to want to learn without the deadlines and due dates? And is it a good thing to eliminate deadlines? (I'm in my 2nd year so I'm definitely still developing my philosophy.)

Sometimes I think our philosophy of education to emphasize the learning and not the grade is doomed for failure in the data driven world of education. It seems that the only efficient system to categorize our students or show their ability is to label them with an A, B or so on. And shouldn't an "A" be different for every student individually? Isn't learning about growth or have we made it about a bar? Is it fair to expect a student to reach the same "bar" with little background knowledge and literacy skills as one who came from a strong background with an abundance of literacy skills? Many of these questions swirl around in my head on a daily basis as I continue to feel like I'm not reaching so many of my students. If I find the answer to any of them I will surely let you know. Thanks for your candor and your blog!
Keely

 
At 8:03 PM, Blogger Carolyn Foote said...

I think it's worthwhile to ask the students.

It's surprising that more students in the responses weren't responding in a way that made me think that they are planning to change what they are doing that much.

It troubles me. I'm an educator in Texas, but I'm more troubled as a person. I see college age students having similar problems. It's distressing, and I feel like some of it links back to high school, and the sort of up and down approach they all had to classes.

And I wonder what's going on with that--is it society, parents, educators, students, work ethic, sense of belonging, lack of school reaching students, what?

I hope this conversation sparks something for your students.

It seems to me that it is more than about grades. It's about each of us being the person we are capable of being. Using our talents....exploring learning....being who we want to be in the world.

Good luck finding answers!

 

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