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Dealing with Frustrating High School Experiences


Replies to: Dealing with Frustrating High School Experiences

  • warbrainwarbrain Registered User Posts: 716 Member
    I'm confused, is the OP's son not supposed to be taking IB exams?
  • PNWedwonkPNWedwonk Registered User Posts: 475 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.
  • PNWedwonkPNWedwonk Registered User Posts: 475 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.)
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 32,345 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?
  • TiggerDadTiggerDad Registered User Posts: 1,879 Senior Member

    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.
  • PNWedwonkPNWedwonk Registered User Posts: 475 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.)
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 32,345 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.
  • TiggerDadTiggerDad Registered User Posts: 1,879 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.
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 21,825 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.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 76,598 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?
  • bookwormbookworm Registered User Posts: 8,809 Senior Member
    I'm glad this discussion of the iB programs has been renewed after many years.

    We were fortunate that I had heard enough that son stayed at local HS, took APs and then classes at the local U. The 2 boys who began the IB program left it after a year.

    I'm sure in some areas it is run very well. It helps to understand the local conditions.
  • PNWedwonkPNWedwonk Registered User Posts: 475 Member
    @bookworm, it's not clear to me that this discussion really has anything to do with IB at all. The only related element is that the student's IB school does not have a blanket policy that eliminates penalties for IB students who miss IB classes while they are taking IB exams. The same issue could apply to an AP only school that has AP classes that that penalize students for missing class while they take an AP exam. OP seems to have some secondary complaints that he attributes to IB (too many Art based projects where you have to buy your own supplies and the rubric wasn't clear?) but, as a parent of an IB diploma candidate (and with another AP focused grad), I don't agree that IB requires any more art-based projects than the non IB curriculum did. I think this is one of those cases where a parent has complaints and attributes them to the (IB in this case) program instead of to how their particular school, or even teacher, operates.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 76,598 Senior Member
    Yes, this seems not IB specific; it happens to be an especially absurd example of hidden schedule conflicts with penalties for missed classes due to such hidden schedule conflicts.
  • JenJenJenJenJenJenJenJen Registered User Posts: 1,116 Senior Member
    @TiggerDad For the future, remember; Amazon Prime is your friend. :) But also, wanted to add that my D19 is winding up her freshman year with a teacher who deducts points for excuses absences as well. Due to school play rehearsals, she missed five classes and it impacted her grade. But you know what? Meh, so what. The theater stuff makes her so happy and makes her high school experience more fulfilling, it's no biggie. It's important to advocate for your kid, of course, but you have to be careful not to ruffle too many feathers.
  • TiggerDadTiggerDad Registered User Posts: 1,879 Senior Member
    edited May 2016
    @bookworm - I have ZERO issues with the IB program itself at my boy's high school. In fact, as I've stated elsewhere, I've been a huge fan of the program for several reasons. I don't want to restate what I've already stated in other threads, but I will mention that the program did make my older son's transition into college a whole lot easier. In fact, he thinks the college is lot easier than the high school. In my second son's (junior) case, his IB experience has been brutal and grueling because of all the extracurricular activities that he had to be on top of along with his academic pursuit of excellence. I have nothing but confidence that he will transition into college very smoothly, as well.

    @PNWedwonk - I do agree that IB isn't inherently more art based projects than non-IB curriculum. That art based assignments in non-art class, in my experience, was all entirely teacher stemmed. However, I think you misunderstood my earlier posts when you stated: "I think this is one of those cases where a parent has complaints and attributes them to the (IB in this case) program instead of to how their particular school, or even teacher, operates."

    My entire complaints are directed at the teachers mentioned, NOT at IB program itself. It's not the IB's fault that some of the teachers have taken on the program when it's over their heads. Some of these teachers lack subject mastery to begin with and they bring unnecessary difficulties and hurdles to make the course look "college level" and "tough" as a way of justifying the course. The students have to pay for this, but this, again, can't be the IB's fault. In fact, this problem also exists with AP courses, too, and those teachers who teach them. The ONLY "B" that my son has ever received in his entire K-11 years is AP Biology that was taught by someone who doesn't have the course content mastery. She decided to make the course very difficult, however, by "feigning" the course's "Advanced Placement" status just by being difficult with her grading. No one in her class ended up well prepared to take the AP Bio exam when the course was over with while hardly anyone received the grade of A. Instead of teaching the subject, it's either you already know how to apply the principles of biology or you don't. No amount of self-studying the subject helped the students whatsoever, so the students ended up giving up on self-studying. I DID protest this teacher and we had a group meeting with her, my son, school counselor and myself -- to no avail. Made no difference. The only way anything can change in high school in such situations is by eliminating deadwood and incompetent teachers, but the administrators are there to protect them and will fight tooth and nail with the parents and the students.
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