A former Texas public school teacher has sent me some stories from their career there. It's not pretty. The situation is what I also recollect from my long-ago days in a Yankee high school, though, so I don't know that we can just blame Texas, but it's true — the system is often set up to give athletes (including cheerleaders) academic privileges that other students don't get. Student athletes were expected to always pass their classes to maintain eligibility, no matter how poorly they did, and teachers were chastised if they compromised athletic eligibility.
Here's a letter that was sent out to all teachers at a Texas high school, gently reminding them of what they must do — either pass students or give them an incomplete — so that the football team doesn't suffer.
Teachers, please remember that we have over 1500 students involved in extracurricular activities who work very hard to have academic success as well as compete or stay connected to the school through their commitment to their organization or team. These students strive to do the right things and have adult coaches or sponsors who support you by working with any student who is not meeting your standards for conduct or academic success. The eligibility status of these students is very important to them, their parents, and to this campus. Please review six weeks grades of 68 and 69 to ensure that those grades accurately reflect student effort, test/assignment reliability and accuracy, and objectivity that can be explained. Please also remember that any student who you are going to allow to make up work or do additional work should be given an "I" instead of an assigned numerical grade.
From the UIL Side By Side
Q: Can a student's grade be changed for eligibility?
After a failing grade has been recorded, the situations in which a student's grade may be changed to passing and eligibility status restored are only as follows:
(a) an examination of course graded issued by a classroom teacher is final and may not be changed unless the grade is arbitrary, erroneous, or not consistent with school district grading policy as determined by the board of trustees. The board's decision may not be appealed. (This is also known as teacher or calculation error.)
(b) Extra credit work or work (including re-test) turned in after the grading period or evaluation has ended may not be considered when determining a student's eligibility for extracurricular activities except in the case of an "incomplete" grade.
Thank you for your support.
Why are they telling the teachers that they have students active in sports? We all know this. We shouldn't care. The job of a teacher is to make sure the students understand the material, and if their afternoon head-butting practice interferes with learning, students shouldn't expect special exemptions. Why are they telling the teachers to make sure that "grades accurately reflect student effort, test/assignment reliability and accuracy"? We all do that, too, and not just for the student athletes. An accurate assessment of a student who doesn't do the classwork should be FAIL.
I love how the administration blithely informs teachers that they should give incompletes to students so they can make up the work they should have done during the term later. That is not right. That is expecting teachers to put in extra work beyond the grading period, to help out the boneheads with extra time and instruction…but I suspect there is no talk of extra pay for teachers who do that.
Hey, I have this brilliant, amazing, completely non-intuitive idea: how about if our schools emphasized academics, not sports, and that extra-curricular activities were regarded as an optional side-issue, completely orthogonal to the goals of the school?
(Also on FtB)