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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teacher: Students can cut class, skip assignments and pass

Giving students a minimum of 50 percent on assignments -- regardless of whether they're turned in -- was a disaster, a former D.C. public school teacher told Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews.

A few weeks into the 2021-22 school year, he said, students figured out they could pass without showing up in class or doing more than one or two assignments.

The 50 percent rule, he said, created “an environment where students can come to school to pop their heads into the classroom to tell the teacher to mark them present, which the teacher is required to do, then proceed to socialize, wander the halls, flirt, fight, walk to the corner store for some food and come back, play games in the gym or atrium, vandalize school property, pop in on the few friends who chose to go to their class, disrupting everyone, and generally live a free and happy life without consequences.”
. . . “A majority of the students … came to school a couple days a week, usually an hour or two late, maybe turned in an assignment or two,” he said. “I think most students still liked the structure of school, a safe-ish place where there’s rules, rules they can choose to break without serious consequences.”

The teacher left the school to teach at a charter school with lower pay and benefits, but no 50 percent rule.

What happens if these students get to college? "Dr. Literature Lady," who teaches writing at a Michigan colleges is in despair, she wrote on Twitter.

The students are not okay. I am not okay. I had two students show up to one of my classes today. Just TWO. Everyone is missing work. Half are failing. I keep emailing, chatting after class, etc. to offer help & boost morale. Today broke me.
. . . I have my courses set up so students have lecture videos and discussion forums to do at home if they are out sick. The problem is that they simply aren't doing them so they are just failing from a lack of work. I don't know what else I can do.

She's trying to teach students how to write a scientific report. They said they'd never read a report on a scientific study in high school. When she gave them a short, clearly written report, they had trouble understanding it. "How am I supposed to make up 2 to 3 years of scientific reasoning instruction?," the instructor asks. Instructors will be "pressured to either lower our standards . . . to pass students or risk bad performance reviews," Dr. Literature Lady predicts.

Young people who lack skills, knowledge and work habits are facing a bleak future.

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