District 51 denies grade inflation at Grand Junction High School

Allegations that Grand Junction High School administrators discouraged teachers from giving students D’s or F’s are “obviously not true,” according to District 51 Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen. But he said high school teachers district-wide are encouraged to help prevent students from getting those grades.

Questions about Grand Junction High grading practices arose after District 51 School Board members deadlocked last week on deciding whether to fire Grand Junction High School math teacher Jane White after 15 years on the job. Administrative Law Judge Matthew E. Norwood’s written decision on the case, which recommended the district retain her after nearly a year on leave, said “multiple teachers testified that the administration at GJHS put pressure on them to avoid giving D’s and to particularly avoid giving F’s.”

“‘Failure was not an option’ was the message these teachers received,” according to the decision. “The administration sought to minimize complaints from parents and wanted to make sure that students remained eligible for athletic competition, marching band and other activities. Such eligibility was very important for some parents. Some parents would themselves complete a student’s homework.”

Larsen said Grand Junction High administrators have been discouraged from talking about the specific allegation or anything related to the case pending a decision from the school board on the fate of White’s job. In the meantime, he said administrators at all District 51 high schools routinely “inform teachers it is unacceptable to have numerous students with D’s and F’s.”

Each high school tracks which students are getting D’s or F’s. Students cannot graduate without a C average, or 2.0 grade-point average, so Larsen said it is part of school expectations that a teacher offer interventions for students in danger of not graduating.

Larsen said the district does not a have a specific threshold for the number of failing students before an administrator has to talk to a teacher. If a few students are failing, a teacher may be asked to offer small group teaching, additional instruction through a computer program, or tutoring before or after school. Re-teaching one or more concepts may be required if multiple students are failing and students who have failed can be sent to a computer lab for credit recovery. The goal is to allow students extra time to grasp a concept and give them a chance to improve their grades through newfound proficiency.

“You could read that as you’re raising grades until everyone gets a 2.0, but that’s not true. It’s a tremendous amount of work,” Larsen said.

Larsen said any credible evidence that an administrator was encouraging teachers to inflate grades based on anything other than student effort “would be grounds for dismissal.”

“Whenever there’s a large number of D and F students in a class we say, ‘What do we need to do to improve those grades?’” Larsen said. “There can’t be any ambiguity in how that is said with administration.”

Norwood’s decision states White was placed on an “awareness phase” plan for the second time since 2010 soon after she complained about a lack of administrative support in February 2012 for a student tutoring program. The Grand Junction High math department introduced a “math interventions” tutoring program in February 2012 “aimed at students who had been receiving D’s and F’s in math classes,” according to the decision.

On Feb. 20, Grand Junction Assistant Principal Jami Moore sent an email to math teachers telling them the program, which took place after school hours, would have to end because it would cost the school district extra money.

“I am truly speechless, as well as flabbergasted at the lack of support for the very intervention the GJHS Administrative Team asked us to plan and implement,” White wrote back, according to the decision.

Teachers are expected to offer support to students, Larsen said, but he understands they are not solely responsible for grades.

“We know students have to have motivation and be responsible as well, but the teacher has to provide support,” he said.


COMMENTS

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Any teacher giving D’s and F’s as the most grades in their class isn’t doing a very good job teaching now are they.

I have never known an administer to tell a teacher to change a grade so a student could be eligible!

Get rid of her!

My Resignation Letter
Posted on April 7, 2014 by Pauline Hawkins
Dear Administrators, Superintendent, et al.:

This is my official resignation letter from my English teaching position.

I’m sad to be leaving a place that has meant so much to me. This was my first teaching
job. For eleven years I taught in these classrooms, I walked these halls, and I
befriended colleagues, students, and parents alike. This school became part of my family,
and I will be forever connected to this community for that reason.

I am grateful for having had the opportunity to serve my community as a teacher. I met the
most incredible people here. I am forever changed by my brilliant and compassionate
colleagues and the incredible students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching.

I know I have made a difference in the lives of my students, just as they have irrevocably
changed mine. Teaching is the most rewarding job I have ever had. That is why I am sad to
leave the profession I love.

Even though I am primarily leaving to be closer to my family, if my family were in
Colorado, I would not be able to continue teaching here. As a newly single mom, I cannot
live in this community on the salary I make as a teacher. With the effects of the pay
freeze still lingering and Colorado having one of the lowest yearly teaching salaries in
the nation, it has become financially impossible for me to teach in this state.

Along with the salary issue, ethically, I can no longer work in an educational system that
is spiraling downwards while it purports to improve the education of our children.

I began my career just as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was gaining momentum. The difference between my students then and now is unmistakable. Regardless of grades or test scores, my
students from five to eleven years ago still had a sense of pride in whom they were and a self-confidence in whom they would become someday. Sadly, that type of student is rare now. Every year I have seen a decline in student morale; every year I have more and more wounded students sitting in my classroom, more and more students participating in self-harm and bullying. These children are lost and in pain.

It is no coincidence that the students I have now coincide with the NCLB movement twelve
years ago–and it’s only getting worse with the new legislation around Race to the Top.

I have sweet, incredible, intelligent children sitting in my classroom who are giving up on their lives already. They feel that they only have failure in their futures because they’ve been told they aren’t good enough by a standardized test; they’ve been told that they can’t be successful because they aren’t jumping through the right hoops on their educational paths.

I have spent so much time trying to reverse those thoughts, trying to help them see that education is not punitive; education is the only way they can improve their lives. But the truth is, the current educational system is punishing them for their
inadequacies, rather than helping them discover their unique talents; our educational
system is failing our children because it is not meeting their needs.

I can no longer be a part of a system that continues to do the exact opposite of what I am
supposed to do as a teacher–I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find
solutions to problems, help them become productive members of society. Instead, the
emphasis on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test
mentality for our teachers and stress and anxiety for our students. Students have
increasingly become hesitant to think for themselves because they have been programmed to
believe that there is one right answer that they may or may not have been given yet. That
is what school has become: A place where teachers must give students “right” answers, so
students can prove (on tests riddled with problems, by the way) that teachers have taught
students what the standards have deemed are a proper education.

As unique as my personal situation might be, I know I am not the only teacher feeling this
way. Instead of weeding out the “bad” teachers, this evaluation system will continue to
frustrate the teachers who are doing everything they can to ensure their students are
graduating with the skills necessary to become civic minded individuals. We feel defeated
and helpless: If we speak out, we are reprimanded for not being team players; if we do as
we are told, we are supporting a broken system.

Since I’ve worked here, we have always asked the question of every situation: “Is this
good for kids?” My answer to this new legislation is, “No. This is absolutely not good for
kids.” I cannot stand by and watch this happen to our precious children–our future. The
irony is I cannot fight for their rights while I am working in the system. Therefore, I
will not apply for another teaching job anywhere in this country while our government
continues to ruin public education. Instead, I will do my best to be an advocate for
change. I will continue to fight for our children’s rights for a free and proper education
because their very lives depend upon it.

My final plea as a district employee is that the principals and superintendent ask themselves the same questions I have asked myself: “Is this good for kids? Is the state money being spent wisely to keep and attract good teachers? Can the district do a better job of advocating for our children and become leaders in this educational system rather than followers?” With my resignation, I hope to inspire change in the district I have come to love.

As Benjamin Franklin once said: “All mankind is divided into three classes: Those
that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” I want to be someone who
moves and makes things happen. Which one do you want to be?

Sincerely,

Pauline Hawkins   (ex teacher, Liberty HS, Colorado Springs, CO)

I am sure Mr Phillips that the possible reason for D’s and F’s cannot be lack of student and/or parental involvement or lack thereof. Ms White was only one of “multiple” teachers to make the assertion. Way to go Mr. Larsen put that responsible upon the teachers. Be damned if parents should be burdened with it. Ms White complained about “lack of support for a math intervention program would end due to lack of funding.” Good ol boy Norwood put Ms White on “a second awareness phase.” Why? Because she dared to complain about the good ol boys. Are we so shocked that the school board is unable to make a decision? Shoot. Go into executive session thereby allowing the good ol boys to spin it in order to protect future recycling. And Mr Phillips you are either naive or terribly out of touch as to believe the idiosy of “never known an administrator to tell a teacher to change a grade so a student could be eligible.” Jul, 2011, 178 teachers and administrators in GA were charged. Until all aspects of a students life such as parenting are met, the government continues “making it fair for all” and students come to realize (parenting) that their education is exactly that, their education, we will continue to have people like you putting the ONUS upon the teachers. This opposed to parents and all of you good ol boys.

Well, I don’t think what happens in Georgia is relative to GJHS and if so those responsible for requesting grade changes should come to the same end FiRED!  Teachers for too long have used the guise of employment as areas on to not fight for what’s right.  To allow ignorant legislators through local school boards to pass legislation without funding is ridiculous!  The answer to legislators, stick it!  When you fund reform we will implement those ideas if they come from trained professional educators.

Throughout the years teachers have made their own bed.  Instead of standing strong and demanding support for change through technology, and support in the classroom the goal remains to do more with less.  It is far past time to stand up and say “We are not going to take this anymore!”

Those in the classroom have always met the challenge of educating the masses with professionalism and integrity.  Those who have not or can not should find another vocation.  The answer for those who do change lives is not to give up but to fight the good fight and not sit idle while ignorant school board members and legislators pass laws that only hamper progress and sustainability for students who walk throughout the doors to learn!

Passing tests simply does not mean kids are better educated and failing tests certainly does not mean kids will not be productive members of society.

If teachers are not willing to fight the good fight then who will!  And those not willing should be shown the door or those who aren’t willing to teach should look elsewhere!

Precisely! Is that NOT what Ms White is doing? Fighting the good fight? Is that NOT what Ms Hawkins is doing? Exactly. Testing, especially good ol boy mandated testing, does not indicate much. Wow. I wouldn’t give the teachers one snowball in hell’s chance of defeating all of the good ol boys. Professional educators you demand. They are leaving. They are here. Note that you neglected parental involvement issues. Students who “walk through the doors” expecting “professional educators” to spoon feed them, powder their butts and teach them manners (parental responsibilities) and merely attending thereby graduating are surely fooling themselves. When is was young bet your bottom dollar that my butt powdering, spoon feeding, manners and motivation were provided by my PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS and my COMMUNITY. And no indeed Georgia a mile or two from GJHS. IT WAS AN INDICATOR. Now you blame teachers because the piss poor performance of the good ol boys in school administration, school board and government. WTH.

My son had Mrs. White as a freshman and she is a good teacher.  He was accelerated in middle school math and consequently was placed in a class primarily intended for juniors.  He does not love math and she was constantly available to help him out both during school hours and after school.  The students that were given D’s and F’s most likely deserved them and from what I understand their class grades correlated with standardized testing grades.  She should be exonerated and given a raise!!

BTW, Jami Moore is a very unpleasant person and I’m not surprised that she cancelled a tutoring program.

Yes indeedy. I am hoping that ALL of the good ol boys get their comeuppance come June and November. It is surely not surprising to me that 2 of the 3 elected school board “members” are unable to make a decision! Are they up for re-election this year?

And Jerry Saunders is damn straight about the parental responsibilities. My kids went to a private K-8 school for the sole reason that I did not want to put them through the public school system and while it was a sacrifice in a lot of ways for my husband and I feel it was the best we could do for them.  Parental involvement for them is not an option - it is a requirement. And while there are good and bad teachers I wouldn’t want to teach in any of our middle school or high schools these days.  Too many parents don’t give a crap so teachers end up having to babysit and are unable to teach. And Mr. Phillips, if you think for a minute that the star football player is allowed to be given an F and miss a game and maybe a scouting opportunity, you would be wrong.  The emphasis that is placed on sports in this community is ridiculous.
Just keep pushing them up and out regardless of their ability.  I teach sophomores, juniors, and seniors in a religious education class and some of them can’t get through reading an easy passage in the Bible without me helping them with a word.  Sad.

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