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Dealing with Frustrating High School Experiences

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Replies to: Dealing with Frustrating High School Experiences

  • ProudpatriotProudpatriot 1538 replies12 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Is there a school policy on absences? If this teacher has a policy regarding missing classes is this in the syllabus?

    I would advise you to write a letter to the school administration and request a meeting. If you get no satisfaction with the school administration go to the school board.

    Schools should encourage students to participate in outside activities whether they involve sports, music, art, theater, or other academic competitions. Of course students are still responsible for learning course content but should not have their grades affected by school activities. I would say that students with high levels of performance who have missed class are more impressive than others.

    My son's school has a central attendance list that keeps track of school activities like athletic events, academic competitions, etc. Parents can also call in things that may not be on the school list(like when my oldest had an interview for the Naval Academy). Students are responsible for all academic material they missed and are entitled to make up exams for school activities. It's up to the teachers to manage make ups.

    Our school's kids are very involved with activities like sports, music, theater, art, math team, model UN, debate, mock trial, science Olympiad, national history day and other activities. They are all treated the same. Nobody loses academic points for it. Policies like the OPs school puts their kids at a disadvantage for college admissions and encourages kids to drop all outside activities in favor of a high GPA. It makes me sad to think of kids dropping all outside activities in favor of an academic grind.
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  • ProudpatriotProudpatriot 1538 replies12 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @jrm- Most colleges excuse absences for school related activities. I went back to earn a 2nd Bachelors as an adult. Our women's chorus was chosen to perform at an ACDA conference and required us to be absent from class for almost a week. We received a letter, with all of our names on it from the university. The letter specified that we were required to submit all required assignments(our music history prof had a paper due during our absence) but that absences were not permitted to affect our grades.

    I don't think FAU is different from other universities in that regard. We were representing the university and thus were excused from class. They handle athletes and marching band in a similar manner.
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  • thumper1thumper1 74784 replies3278 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My son missed 20 days his senior year for honors music festivals and auditions. They were all excused absences by the school.

    Talk to your administration. In HS, this is usually a school wide policy, not a class by class policy.
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  • sybbie719sybbie719 20736 replies1998 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    edited May 2016
    The student is not being penalized for absences, as a matter of fact, attendance can not be used to solely reduce a grade of fail a student. @jrm815 pretty much summed up what is happening. The student absent is results in the student not being in class for participation purposes, if they have a "do now", in class pop quiz, group work, classwork, in-class assignment or some sort of exit ticket, done at the end of the lesson and he is not there to be graded for that assignment.

    Teacher is perfectly within his her right to set up their syllabus however they choose as long as they are establishing a policy that is being consistently applied to all students in the class (and from OP's post it looks like the teacher is applying the policy consistently).

    At the end of the day, it is not a guidance issue or an administration issue if the grade is being lowered due to "non-participation" because they cannot tell a teacher how to grade their class. The administration can set up a basic grading policy and what the policy would cover, but they cannot tell the teacher, "this is how you must grade your student. While the absence may be "excused", it just means that there is a reason that the student is missing school vs a student who is consistently absent due to skipping school or educational neglect.

    While the GC can have a peer to peer chat with the teacher about the situation, the teacher can go to the administration to have the GC sanctioned if they feel that the GC is putting undue pressure on them to change their classroom policy. Remember that administration cannot make a teacher change the grade if the teacher can open up their grade book and justify the grade. As long as the teacher can state what is the objective criteria that a student is being graded on, you can escalate to the administration and the school district; as long as they are not breaking a city or state wide policy, they are good. The teacher can actually file a grievance if administration tries to force them to change a grade.


    I would recommend that you look over the teachers course syllabus and grading policy, especially as it pertains to absences and missed classes. Is advanced notice required? Is there an opportunity to make up missed work? Could your child have given the work that s/he was going to miss?
    edited May 2016
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  • MarianMarian 13200 replies83 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    The student is not being penalized for absences, as a matter of fact, attendance can not be used to solely reduce a grade of fail a student. @jrm815 pretty much summed up what is happening. The student absent is results in the student not being in class for participation purposes, if they have a "do now", in class pop quiz, group work, classwork, in-class assignment or some sort of exit ticket, done at the end of the lesson and he is not there to be graded for that assignment.

    In my opinion, this is splitting hairs. Yes, the student is not being directly penalized for absence, but the student is being penalized by being unavailable for something because of that absence. That's close to the same thing.

    I wonder whether there is a policy by which students who miss work (whether it's participation or a pop quiz or something else) can make it up by doing a different kind of assignment. For example, when my kids were in school bands (which were credit courses with letter grades), participation in concerts was a required part of the course that counted toward the grade. However, if a student missed a concert because of illness or was unable to play because of an injury, the student could make up for it by preparing a written report on a topic related to music. Might there be similar policies school-wide to allow students to keep their grades up in spite of unavoidable absences?
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  • sybbie719sybbie719 20736 replies1998 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    edited May 2016
    Actually it is not splitting hairs, because there are policies in place for students with long term absences, and students with Disabilities who may be absent due to chronic illnesses. This is why I recommended that op look at the teachers Syllabi and grading policy. It is also a conversation that parent and student also need to have at the beginning of the term as to which how absences will be handled and being proactive before grades are in jeopardy vs waiting until days before the term ends.
    edited May 2016
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  • MarianMarian 13200 replies83 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited May 2016
    In any case, if you're going to pursue this, it would be good to read all the materials that your child was given at the beginning of the course, and to ask for clarification of the grading policy with the thought in mind that maybe your kid misunderstood something or maybe you misunderstood what your kid told you. Because in fact, one of you may have misunderstood. Also, a less aggressive approach, at least initially, might be received better.

    But at some point, you will probably find yourself saying something like, "I know you want your students to participate in honors musical ensembles and to take IB tests. How could a student do this without jeopardizing his GPA?"

    It would be a shame if a school penalized students for participating in honors musical ensembles. Having the opportunity to play with other students of your own caliber can be a very enjoyable experience for a serious or moderately serious musician. It can help keep the kids interested in instrumental music. But as others pointed out, perhaps your son needed to talk to the teacher in advance about the academic consequences of his absences.
    edited May 2016
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  • LizardlyLizardly 2506 replies11 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Kids are penalized for excused school activities AND for taking IB/AP? That just doesn't make sense.

    As urged above, I would read the teacher's and the school's and the school district's policies on absences and make ups. Read them carefully with your student. Make sure you really understand what is going on, where there are conflicts, etc. Are there mission statements or goals listed? Are there contradictions in how policies are applied?

    Then I would get the student and if possible a group of similarly affected friends to go talk to the teacher, then the school admin, then on up the ladder. Coach them from the sidelines, but let them do it. If they don't get satisfaction (I will leave the definition of that open), then you or better yet a group of parents should step in.

    (As an aside, my kids had better results when they handled things on their own. One kid was in a class with a teacher who was lazy about making tests. She just got them off the internet and used them without vetting them. Often they didn't line up with the material covered. The KIDS figured it out and went to her privately in a small group and discussed it. She stopped doing that. Another kid had scheduling issues. In a large school, guidance was slow about fixing them. Kid came up with a solution, went to counselor and presented it, she was happy to adopt it. Kid had gone around and received teacher permission for solution, etc.)
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  • cmfl11cmfl11 76 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    My daughter had a class with a similar policy this year. However, students with excused absences were given the opportunity to make up participation points after school on certain days. My daughter had a number of absences for sports and other activities, but she always made sure to schedule a make-up.

    I would double check with your child that the teacher did not in fact provide any make-up opportunities. If not, he should pursue the issue with guidance, student dean, or the appropriate chain of command.

    I agree with others that it is usually more effective if the student pursues the issue rather than the parent.
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 12870 replies241 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @sybbie719 Teacher is perfectly within his her right to set up their syllabus however they choose as long as they are establishing a policy that is being consistently applied to all students in the class

    It seems like a poorly designed IB program that penalizes kids who miss an IB class while they are taking the IB/AP exam for another IB/AP course.
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  • warbrainwarbrain 693 replies23 threadsRegistered User Member
    I'm confused, is the OP's son not supposed to be taking IB exams?
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  • PNWedwonkPNWedwonk 451 replies24 threadsRegistered User Member
    @warbrain , OP's S is an IB junior so would take two SL exams this year. He would not test for the HL class in question until next year.
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  • PNWedwonkPNWedwonk 451 replies24 threadsRegistered User Member
    Has OP's S talked about this with older students? Maybe it's a nonissue? Maybe most kids miss a chunk of participation points for whatever reason so the policy ends up acting as bonus points for kids who participate everyday (so OP 's S will hold on to his A- which seems to be the real issue here.)
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34107 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited May 2016
    Can the GC mention in his/her rec letter that Johnny was at A level and dropped to a B grade only because of high level music commitments? And/or your son can use Addl Info in the app to discreetly mention. You'll need to turn this lemon into lemonade. Any chance this teacher will still give a super LoR and explain?
    edited May 2016
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  • TiggerDadTiggerDad 1887 replies70 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    UPDATE:

    My son went through about 2 ft pile of papers, notes and books on top of his desk to look for his syllabus for the class. He couldn't find it, but one of his classmates (with much better organizational skills than my son!) found it and shared it with him. It only stated how critical class participation is and that there's no makeup for any missed classes and the class participation is worth 60% of the grade. No specific policy regarding missed classes due to school sanctioned activities or due to taking IB and AP exams, i.e., missed classes are missed classes no matter the reason.

    Although his final exam was yesterday, the final grade was posted later in the evening. Apparently, when my son protested the issue with the teacher shortly before the final exam, the teacher "promised" that he would not get A- or even B+ as the final grade. Now, this "promise" just added to our confusion as to what her real policies are with the class grading. Everything seemed so arbitrary and what suits her whim. In spite of our skepticism regarding her "promise," my son indeed ended up with his final grade of A to our great relief. Just by the point system, he should have received A-, but she did keep her promise.

    The final grade was beside the point, though. I just don't understand the logic behind deducting points for both the school sanctioned activities and especially for being absent because of IB and AP exams. Obviously, we're not going to see anyone above her now to protest her method of grading as it'd be a strange thing to do for a student who secured A for the final grade. We also don't want to antagonize the teacher who happened to have liked my son throughout the semester, but I still don't approve of her course policies.
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  • PNWedwonkPNWedwonk 451 replies24 threadsRegistered User Member
    No specific policy regarding missed classes due to school sanctioned activities or due to taking IB and AP exams, i.e., missed classes are missed classes no matter the reason.

    So it's not like the syllabus said you lost a point for every day you missed no matter what. Just that participation was worth 60% and you couldn't make it up with work outside of class.

    She probably has a quality measure for participation as well as a quantity measure and kids who are sufficiently engaged when they are there can overcome losing points for their activities.

    So, in the end, a nonissue. (Upperclassmen could probably have told him this.)
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34107 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Ok, now make sure he's working on the rest of what it takes to get into a good college- and no misunderstandings on that.
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  • TiggerDadTiggerDad 1887 replies70 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    After what both my sons have had to deal with at their high school, I pretty much came to the following conclusion:

    Most of teachers at this high school have rather unimpressive academic backgrounds to begin with. I think some of them are frankly over their heads taking on IB courses that they're not prepared to do so. Understanding that IB courses are "tough," I really believe that they try to make the course "tough" and "college-ready" by being unnecessarily difficult -- NOT with the course contents per se but with their unreasonable grading.

    Example? A year ago, an MYP English course required my son to go shop for a mask with which he had to do some coloring on. I was furious when another such useless but time consuming assignment was yet again given to the students that is unrelated to the course. No English courses ever taught the students the rudiments of grammar at the high school, so my anger when an English class is demanding an art project on the students. It took us driving to three stores before we could locate a mask. My son then diligently and meticulously worked on the assignment for hours. When the grade for the assignment came out, he received B for the assignment to his big surprise. When my son consulted the teacher to ask why the grade was lower than he expected, her response? "The eyes on the mask were too small." It took me days to suppress the welling up urge to go see the teacher and scream at her.

    Another example? How about the MYP Earth Science that my son took as a freshman? The teacher didn't know her material, so all she did were two things: 1) read the materials verbatim off PowerPoint, and 2) assigned a laptop to every student in the class to go information hunting on their own so she could do some other things instead of teaching. Once, when my son needed a further explanation than what the Internet was able to provide, he went up to the teacher to ask only to find her busy texting surreptitiously under the desk with her cell phone. It was a complex question, so my son went through a long and winded question all the while she was still busy texting under the desk. Then, when my son was done with his long and complex question, she looked up and asked him to repeat the question again. He did -- only to find out that she didn't know the answer so she had to Google for the answer right in front of my son.

    Another sad story is that, although my son is musically talented (won competitions at the state, national and international levels and held CM position at his high school, local youth orchestra, All State and National Honor Orchestra), he CAN'T ask his own high school orchestra teacher for a letter of recommendation for his college and conservatory applications. The orchestra teacher can't write a decent sentence of English. My email communication with him displayed his English command at the level of an elementary schooler with run-on sentences and no recognizable grammatical rules -- and he's no James Joyce. I'm not a good writer myself, but I swear I'm Hemingway in comparison!

    One lesson as a parent that I learned from my boys' high school experiences: a regional location is often a very poor choice to send the children to a high school in. Regional locations often do not have well educated and trained teachers, and if I had to do it all over again, I'd have moved the family to a larger city well stocked with good colleges which serve as pipeline to the city's high school teachers, coaches and administrators. Of course, I'm generalizing as I'm sure there are many exceptions to the rules. But from my own experience, this is what I learned most painfully.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 22965 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    A common complaint about IB programs is that they involve a lot of busy work - coloring maps, projects that aren't that difficult, math that isn't challenging. Sometimes, it is quantity over quality, but the IB method is based on repeating an activity until it is learned. Some of it is very good training, like writing and rewriting essays. My daughter was in an IB middle school program, and one project they did involved researching a person and making a booth with all kinds of displays about the person - costume, books, inventions. It was an amazing amount of busy work, some questionable grading points like did the display have a tablecloth, but still one of the best projects she ever did. I enjoyed the presentation very much although some kids a very minimal amount of work while others put a lot of time into it. Still, if they didn't have a tablecloth...

    I don't know why you'd think any teacher would know everything. Yes, they sometimes have to look stuff up too. You won't find better teachers in city schools. Depending how states fund their schools, usually the city schools are not the best with the most educated teachers, but the poorest trying to educate a lot of children on a small budget. In my area, it is the suburban schools with teachers with masters and even some PhD's (which doesn't make them the best teachers either) as the suburban districts can afford to pay more, have smaller class sizes, more resources; real estate taxes fund school districts, so the wealthier areas have bigger budgets around here.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78229 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    OHMomof2 wrote:
    It seems like a poorly designed IB program that penalizes kids who miss an IB class while they are taking the IB/AP exam for another IB/AP course.

    Also, generally for other school sanctioned academic activities associated with other classes (including art and music performances). Such policies create time conflicts that may not necessarily be obvious at course selection time. I.e. if the student takes two IB courses, but the IB test for one course causes a missed class for the other and results in a penalty, or if the student takes orchestra or band and some other course with such a penalty, but then the orchestra or band goes to perform somewhere, do the orchestra and band members have to choose taking a penalty between the performance and the other class?
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