Dissing honor roll

Needham High in Massachusetts has decided to stop publishing the names of students who make honor roll in the local newspaper.

Principal Paul Richards said a key reason for stopping the practice is its contribution to students’ stress level in “This high expectations-high-achievement culture.”

. . . Richards said publishing of the honor roll represented “an unhealthy focus on grades.” He pointed out that there are lots of other ways that students achieve, such as in clubs, musicals, concerts, athletics and community service.

He said the ranking of students solely based on grades goes against the school’s overall mission which is to “promote learning.”

The message to Needham students: Your grades don’t reflect learning, so why stress out? Too much academic achievement is unhealthy. Join a club! Play a sport. That’s just as good.

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  1. Bill Leonard says:

    Perhaps principal Paul Richards works in a tenured environment in which little is expected and little is achieved by those who take home salaries and call themselves “educators.” But that is not the experience of most of us who do not work for some government entity, nor will it be the experience of the kids Richards and his ilk currently are short-changing by neither expecting nor requiring little of them.

    One wonders exactly how Richards would measure learning, if not through grades based on tests of the material taught: high self-esteem? Personal popularity? Membership in the Pep Club?

  2. “He said the ranking of students solely based on grades goes against the school’s overall mission which is to ‘promote learning.'”

    This juxtaposition of academic achievement and “learning” may seem perplexing to someone not fully conversant with the educationist Thoughtworld.

    Professor of education George K. Cunningham explains this puzzle: http://instructivist.blogspot.com/search?q=surreal

    Education schools and the national organizations that support them have a different focus. They believe that instructional methods should be evaluated in terms of their fidelity to a progressive philosophy of education. Their focus is on “learning” rather than academic achievement. While the terms “academic achievement” and “learning” may appear to refer to the same activities, the instructional methods designed to enhance “learning” are primarily child-centered and may not only fail to increase academic achievement, they may actually degrade it. Instead of teachers teaching students, they believe that it is the role of a good teacher to create the proper environment for learning and if this done properly, students will “learn” by constructing their own meaning. “Learning,” unlike academic achievement, is evaluated in terms of what the teachers is doing. It does not require an examination of what is happening to the students in the classroom.

  3. tabitharuth says:

    So will they stop publishing the sports scores, too? Or at least the names of scoring players?

  4. I think he’s simply projecting — he figures he must be a success (in his own mind), and he wasn’t smart enough to make honor role (I’ll bet), so honor role must have no validity or importance.

  5. Catch Thirty Thr33 says:

    This makes as much sense as the policy of the school district I spent most of my time in here in TX. They do not rank valedictorians based on GPA or some other sensible objective measure; rather, they declare the top 10% of each graduating class the “valedictorian” and determine the valedictory speaker via a popularity contest (I mean, vote by the student body). No other nearby district that I am aware of does this.
    And my parents wondered why I thought attending my high school graduation was a tedious waste of time.
    (I’m sure this policy is done for the purposes of college admissions, but just on principle alone I find it foul.)

  6. Wow, he wants to avoid a “high-achievement” culture… the man should be slapped hard in the face with a printed version of the NCLB regs. It’s this academic complacency which has caused much of our nation’s academic problems.
    How about, instead of putting down academics, the school makes sure it promotes it’s extracurricular activities too? Nah, would probably cost too much.

  7. GradSchoolMom says:

    Are you all parents also, or just teachers that have responded to this? I have been against the policy of removing all competition out of education to protect our precious self-esteems, but this high-achievement stress has gotten totally out of hand. I think I’m going to throw up if I read one more article about a student with a 4.5 GPA who volunteers 20 hours a week at the local soup kitchen while heading every club she belongs and winning most valuable player on the team – and don’t forget about her current research into stem cells! I have nothing against brilliant, high-achievers but they should simply be appreciated and not held up as the standard. Average students are being pushed to achieve higher and higher. As a mother of 3 teenage sons, I feel the result is going to be less achievement from this generation rather than more. My sons and most of their friends from the Honors classes are already feeling burn-out in the 10th grade. Most are discussing not attending college, but most will because Mom and Dad say they have to. I think that grades, honor rolls and honor societies may need to go away until today’s parents get over them.

  8. “there are lots of other ways that students achieve, such as in clubs, musicals, concerts, athletics and community service”…and, of course, the local newspapers never run stories on high school ball games, theatricals, etc.

    Seems to me that an extraordinarily high proportion of K-12 administrators are people who actually have a strong dislike for the acquisition of knowledge.

  9. Catch Thirty Thr33 says:

    GradSchoolMom – No, I am not an educator, just a victim of educators :-). But in your example, what irks me about that is that the academic achievement matters not many times – its the proving to the world that you REALLY are “well-rounded” that irks me. Why should I, or anyone else in the world, be obligated to prove to the world how “well-rounded” we are? What if we WANT to be one- or two- dimensional because those one or two dimensions are where our passions lie?
    I don’t think children – or really, anyone over the age of, say, one day – should be obligated to do things they perhaps really DON’T want or feel the need to do in order to prove to everyone that they are “well rounded” or involved. How does spending every waking hour of one’s life centered on a high school that will be in the long run a very short chapter of life prove anything to anyone?
    I’d much rather see a college admission system – or an educational world in general – that values academic achievement above all else. I say, publish the kids’ names that are on the honor roll and determine who gives the valedictory speech in the basis of GPA only, not on how many “extracurricular activities”(I hated that phrase in high school) and athletics one happens to be involved in. All of that is nice, and if the kids LIKE to do all that, great! But why demand all of the other kids do them through means like college admissions and other lures?

  10. Thr principal is correct. In his high school a focus on grades is obviously unhealthy. Thank goodness the staff, students and community have self esteem to fall back upon. That and a buck will buy coffee at any McDonald’s in America.

  11. There is no mention that the Needham community has experienced 4 teen suicides in the past 2 years. The suffering is terrible.

    All other factors aside, honor roll is not perceived as fair. It is based on letter grades and not level of classes. An AP B is equivalent to a non-college prep B. There is widespread cheating in the community, especially in the advanced classes. There is extreme favoritism for certain students who have connections or money or even just parents with loud voices. Grades are often based on resources students have available. Does Dad work at MIT? Do your science fair project in his lab, get a top grade, bring honor to your teacher. Please.

    If everyone is so worried about achievement, publish everybody’s SAT scores in the paper. That would be completely objective. That would solve the whole problem.

  12. I can then assume that this principal will stop keeping score at any and all sports events, as the emphasis will be on the participation and attitude of each player, rather than any kind of ability or actual accomplishment or product?

  13. Andy Freeman says:

    I note that none of the problems are addressed by the principal’s solution. Does that suggest incompetence or that the solution isn’t meant to address the problems?

  14. Bill Leonard says:

    GradSchoolMom, I am not and never have been an educator. I am, however, a parent, and now, a grandparent. I’ve put kids through high school and college.

    And I still believe that those who earn high grades — the honor roll crowd, if you will — ought to be recognized for their achievement.

    I don’t know what world Principal Paul Richards lives in, but it sure isn’t related to the one I grew up in, or the one my sons encountered in school. In that world, the best athletes will always be recognized. The handsomest, best-looking kids will always be the most popular — at least until the real world of work and life intrude. Then, the high achievers usually get recognized for their efforts.

    Meanwhile, keep publishing the names of the honor roll kids.

  15. Kathy Hansen says:

    Principal Richards has no right whatsoever to have a higher salary than say the janitor in his school. Make the janitor feel better about himself by paying Richards minimum wage.

  16. A Smart Woman says:

    Wake up people. This isn’t about attacking the character of a high school Principal. You should all be ashamed of yourselves and if you ever met Paul Richards you would feel horrible for saying these things about he and his family.

    Do you really think he makes these decisions on his own (and a little perspectiver here–it isn’t as if they CANCELLED the honor roll–like SO MANY OTHER PUBLIC SCHOOLS HAVE ALREADY DONE, AROUND THE COUNTRY!–THIS ISN’T A NEW IDEA!) it is a committee-wide decision that gets made after several meetings between school officials, parents and students.

    And understand one more thing: SCHOOL IS NOT VOLUNTARY, SPORTS ARE–ACHIEVEMENTS IN SCHOOL AND SPORTS CANNOT BE COMPARED–I think some of you need to go back to grade one, or at least leave New England or the country for one minute to understand the way the rest of the world works.