Pat Larkin’s children not only go to school with my children, but he was my son’s first basketball coach. Yet, he and I really did get to know one another until about a year ago when he reached out to me via twitter. Two weeks later we met for coffee with our respective families at our favorite breakfast place in Exeter, Me & Ollies. Since then, Patrick and I have not only cultivated a valued professional relationship, but also a terrific friendship. He and I traveled to Educon together (along with Eric Conti), organized the first Northern New England Tweetup (#nnetweetup) in Newburyport, MA, and correspond nearly daily. To say that he has become one of the most valued members of my PLN would be a massive understatement. I respect his leadership immensely, and truly value his friendship. So when I first thought of this idea to have a guest blog series, Patrick was the first person I asked. I am honored to host his post below:
I am constantly amazed at the free-ride we get in public schools in regards to some of our traditional practices. With this in mind, we have been having a lot of discussions here at Burlington High lately about student voice and encouraging students to ask questions about some of the practices that they feel need to be revised in our school. Having said this, you can imagine my excitement when I got the following e-mail from one of my students:
Dear Mr. Larkin
I’m unsure as to whether this is the right place to talk to you about my concern about how each class works with the student GPAs, but I’m going to give it a shot. As a student, I study hard and I suppose I’m a competitive student. What I find ridiculous is how some students have it easier than others. For example: If a group of students are taking an honors class and there are two teachers who teach it, one teacher may be more lenient than the other. So while the students with the more difficult teacher work harder for the A, the students in the other may not have to work as hard to receive that A. I’ve seen this with an Alegbra II class and I’m filled with discontent that while my classmates and I work hard to get a decent grade (some who are brilliant, hard-working students that receive a B), the students in the other class hardly have to work hard, and almost all of them receive A’s when I know that a majority don’t work hard. I know that it’s impossible to have all students be taught under one teacher to make things fair, but the situation I just described sort of throws the class ranking off, as students are receiving A’s when they don’t deserve it.
All I can say is wow! This student has his eyes wide-open and he has nailed one of the biggest issues we have in our schools. Grades, grade point averages, class rank, etc. really don’t have any validity. On another note, kudos to this student for articulating this issue so clearly and so respectfully. Part of our mission is to teach responsible citizenship to our students so that they will ask tough questions. At least in the case of this student, our mission has been accomplished.
So while I have grown quite fond of saying, “This is not a Burlington High School problem, this is a public education problem,” my intention is not to utter a disclaimer that takes us off the hook and implies that there is nothing we can do. But having been in three high schools that have all had the same issue described by this student, I don’t have a quick and tidy answer.
How do we resolve this issue? Or is it one that we can only minimize and not resolve completely?