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Dealing with Frustrating High School Experiences

TiggerDadTiggerDad Registered User Posts: 1,879 Senior Member
Throughout my two sons' years at their high school, we've had to deal with multiple and ongoing frustrations, particularly with some of their teachers. I don't want to turn this into one of those venting sessions, so I won't go into any of the past incidents except to single out the latest one.

My second son is finishing up his junior year in the IB program (in fact, today's his last set of final exams!). In one of his IB HL classes, he's in danger of dropping his grade from A- to B+ or worse all depends on how he does with his final exam. It's not that big a deal if the possibility of downgrade is due to the lack of his understanding of the course content. As far as the course content goes, though, he's been doing A+ work all semester. What brought his grade down steadily throughout the semester is the fact that the teacher decided to deduct points each time my son missed the class REGARDLESS of the reason why he missed the class. He missed this particular class when he went to the All State Honor Orchestra for three days, the National Honor Orchestra for four days and when he missed the class in order to take the AP exams and IB exams -- all with the prior notices. No other teachers practice this method of punishing the students for such valid reasons for missing their classes.

My son and other students did protest such method directly to the teacher but to no avail. A missed class means missed participation and the class participation weighs heavily in the course grading system. No other way around it. The same punishment for student-athletes who have to unavoidably miss the class in order to participate in the regional or state championships or whatever... Protesting such practice to the high school administrators is just a waste of time as they're there to always side with the teachers. These administrators deal with any parents as potential enemies, so I learned to just stay away and cut all communications even from starting. We only count the days until we're finally all done with this high school.

Has anyone dealt with anything similar to this and found an effective way to deal with such?

Replies to: Dealing with Frustrating High School Experiences

  • katliamomkatliamom Registered User Posts: 12,869 Senior Member
    A very good friend of mine has twins in the IB program. Boy twin was doing well, but in his freshman year had a lot of health issues - it's like his sudden growth spurt weakened his immune system, and he came down with every virus making the rounds.

    Bottom line, although he was keeping up academically by studying at home, he was dropped from IB because he missed too much school.

    So -- the kiddo is now taking regular honors and AP classes, happy as a clam.

    The girl twin was doing fine in IB, until it came to math. By sophomore year, she was struggling under a teacher she'd have through her senior year. She too is thinking of dropping out of IB.

    Personally, I find IB over-hyped, at times limited, and too much of an unreasonable pressure cooker. Fighting/questioning regular high school policies is hard enough; fighting IB IMO isn't worth it. If the program isn't meeting your child's needs -- and it isn't since he's being punished for totally reasonable absences -- then I think it's time to rethink being in IB in the first place.
  • HarvestMoon1HarvestMoon1 Registered User Posts: 6,228 Senior Member
    That's a crazy policy in my mind. If the child is mastering the material and normally participates in class why should the child be penalized? Certainly I would argue over the deduction of points for being absent due to taking the AP and IB exams. These are connected to and I would argue an extension of the school's curriculum. Are the two orchestras he participates in connected at all to the school?

    Personally, if your child has exhausted all avenues in attempting to deal with this, I would take it to the school's administration or academic dean. I really dislike policies of this nature - they seem unnecessarily punitive and end up hurting students who are otherwise an asset to the school.
  • PNWedwonkPNWedwonk Registered User Posts: 475 Member
    edited May 2016
    Protesting such practice to the high school administrators is just a waste of time as they're there to always side with the teachers.

    You said the students talked to the teacher. Did they go, as a group, to the administration? (Taking points off for missing class for IB exams seems particularly harsh--seems like the IB coordinator would have something to say about that.)

    Has the teacher always had this policy or was it new this year?
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal Registered User Posts: 5,311 Senior Member
    If he gets a 6 or 7 on the exam, won't that "trump" this teacher's behavior? It provides an outlet for explaining that the grades do not reflect the mastery of the material.

    The head of the IB program at our school openly says that he thinks one the best things about IB is that it provides students (and teachers) with independent assessments. Teachers bring all kinds of biases to their grading -- from whether they like or dislike students to preferred opinions/arguments on certain topics. It would seem that this is one of those situations in which that independence could be quite valuable.
  • PNWedwonkPNWedwonk Registered User Posts: 475 Member
    If it's junior year of an HL class, he won't test in that subject until the end of next year.

    Does the teacher have ways of earning extra credit?

    I will say that it is disruptive and bad for class discussion to have a bunch of kids who don't show up for class, for whatever reason. Someone in the administrations should probably develop a consistent policy. If missing for a state level orchestra competition is ok, then what about football playoffs? Junior Olympics competitions? Dentist appointments? Mental Health Days? The teacher may have been repeatedly burned by kids just not showing up and got sick of it. (And parents, myself included, will often excuse an absence for things the teacher wouldn't agree with, e.g., Mental Health Days.)
  • b1ggreencab1ggreenca Registered User Posts: 535 Member
    I agree that the administration may well back up the teacher--that's been my experience too when dealing with bizarre classroom policies like this one--but I think it's a cop out to decide you already know what they're going to say and do, and thus not even try and have it addressed at that level.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 76,614 Senior Member
    PNWedwonk wrote:
    I will say that it is disruptive and bad for class discussion to have a bunch of kids who don't show up for class, for whatever reason. Someone in the administrations should probably develop a consistent policy. If missing for a state level orchestra competition is ok, then what about football playoffs?

    For school sanctioned academic activities (e.g. AP or IB exams, school orchestra or band events), it seems that the sensible policy is to have no penalty for such an absence.

    School sanctioned non-academic activities like athletics may be a harder call to make, but it is best if a policy were in place, and it (and possible schedule conflicts resulting in absences) were disclosed in advanced of signing up for classes or such activities.
  • TiggerDadTiggerDad Registered User Posts: 1,879 Senior Member
    edited May 2016
    @katliamom - This isn't an IB related issue; it's a teacher related issue, rather. As for IB, I'm actually very glad that we chose this program. This particular junior year has been most grueling and brutal due to all those music related extracurricular activities that my son had to do on top of his academic responsibilities, but my confidence in my son's chance of doing well in college is really high because of the IB program. His older brother also went through the IB program, and he found his freshmen year as "easy" in comparison to what he had to go through in high school.

    @ucbalumnus - According to my son, there was a mention of the teacher's policy regarding missed classes, but he doesn't think it mentioned anything specific to those school sanctioned activities.

    @HarvestMoon1 - I was pretty angry when I learned from my son that his grade went down because he had to missed some of this teacher's class due to his participation at the All State Honor Orchestra and the National Honor Orchestra (both where, by the way, my son was placed concertmaster and which the school cared less about), but when I learned that his grade went down even further because he missed the class in order to take the AP and IB exams, I was furious. This is simply wrong wrong wrong no matter how anyone can slice it. The two orchestras, by the way, are tied with the school orchestra as the student can only participate in those by being a member of the school orchestra. I KNOW the administrators and talking to them is totally useless and a waste of time. As stated in my first post, this is just the latest incident that frustrated my son and me, i.e., I've had encounters with the school administrators in the past.

    @PNWedwonk - You brought up something that I haven't thought about yet. If my son's final exam in this class for some reason drops his grade to B+ or worse, I will protest this to his IB coordinator, NOT the other school administrators. It makes absolutely no sense that my son and his classmates are punished for taking the AP and IB exams. The thing that makes it hard for my son and his classmates to protest as a group is that they all like the class and the teacher. Unfortunately, she has this strangest grading policy of deducting points for missed classes regardless of the reasons.
  • MotherOfDragonsMotherOfDragons Registered User Posts: 3,960 Senior Member
    I would also check with his IB coordinator about other IB teachers that may have the same policy, and avoid them.

    Both of my kids are taking some IB courses (although not going for the full diploma), and we haven't encountered any attendance policy stuff that is counter to the school's policy. At least where we live, the teachers are required to conform to the school's written policy. I'm not sure this is an IB thing-it sounds like a teacher on a power trip.
  • delilahxcdelilahxc Registered User Posts: 249 Junior Member
    There would be mutiny in my son's IB program if a teacher ever tried to implement a policy like this given that the majority of the cross country varsity team is in IB. Unexcused absences can affect grades but for school activities is something I have never heard of.
  • delilahxcdelilahxc Registered User Posts: 249 Junior Member
    Also, if your son is using orchestra for his CAS project, isn't penalizing the activity counter intuitive?
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 21,831 Senior Member
    I'm not a big supporter of IB, but I do think the more strict the IB program is, the more successful it is. The original IB programs were self contained, and there was no need for orchestra programs that interfered with IB classes. The IB program my daughter interviewed for was very strict. No AP classes (so no AP tests), no classes with the general population of the school, no need for time away from the IB program. My daughter was not interested in this strict of a program.

    The program was very very successful for the 100 or so students who completed it each year, but has since been 'integrated' by the school board and now non-IB students are allowed to take IB classes, IB students can take AP classes, etc. The result is that the program is not as strong and not as many students get the IB diplomas.

    The physical educ program at my high school had a 'no excuses' policy. If you missed a class, even with an excuse, you had to make it up. If it was an excused absence, you made it up hour for hour, if unexcused you made it up 3x per hour missed. Sick, broken arm, trip to the state orchestra concert, late because of completing a test? Fine, but you made up the missed classes. Didn't make it up, no credit for the class and PE credits were required for graduation.
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 12,619 Senior Member
    Is there a school handbook? My kids' directly addressed absences for such things as well as conflicts between them (if "you're on the volleyball team and play in orchestra; a game and a concert are scheduled for the same time you should do ____ but if you do ____ the consequence is ____" - like that).

    I'd ask the administration about it if not - "should Child1 have skipped the orchestra state event to go to the class?" "Are you comfortable allowing one teacher to override another without an official policy in place? (orchestra vs IB class). "Do you mean to discourage students from taking AP and IB exams if that means they must miss a class?" Or something like that.
    Protesting such practice to the high school administrators is just a waste of time as they're there to always side with the teachers.

    I'm guessing the orchestra teacher/AP-IB teachers would have lowered the grade for your kid if he'd skipped states/the exams too.
  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 24,492 Forum Champion
    edited May 2016
    I don't think students can properly be penalized for excused absences from class. Our HS is clear about that. I would certainly bring it to the attention of the department head and then the principal. Not in a nasty way, but I would want to know what students should be expected to do in these situations because it seems like involved/active students or students with an illness will inevitably find themselves in a Catch 22 (should a student come to class with a contagious illness? should football games be forfeited? should excellence in music be discouraged?) . Perhaps write a letter to the BOE if you are still not satisfied and ask them to develop a district-wide policy.
This discussion has been closed.