Failure and Its Impact
Unfortunately, failure is a real and regular option and experience for kids at my school. Many students enroll in our school with a significant quantity of missing credits and academic skills that are far below grade level. Aside from offering credit recovery courses during intersession and recently changing from traditional semesters to trimester with block schedules to provide students with more opportunities to retake courses, we do not have structures in place to prevent failures. Instead, our structures simply prepare for and respond to failures.
As a result, many upperclassmen attend off-campus adult school and emancipate before graduating. On a positive note, we are building a culture that encourages and supports credit-deficient students who can also benefit from an additional year of emotional support to stay for a fifth year of high school. This effort was led by the residential agency after they noticed that many of our students were leaving campus underprepared to transition to independent living. We have only been intentionally keeping fifth-year seniors for two years and many students already have benefited from this change.
One condition that exists which makes it too late to learn and reach competency is a lack of interventions during trimesters. Currently, if a student falls behind and is in danger of failing a course, the school notifies invested adults through progress reports. As a school, we do not offer extra supports to prevent failures. Instead, the responsibility of helping students catch-up or re-learn is placed on the residential staff.
Additionally, we do not have an established practice of allowing students to resubmit work and reassess if they are unable to demonstrate mastery of a learning goal. In the ten years that I have worked at the school, we have never even discussed grading practices as a staff. In fact, many students’ grades are actually determined by behaviors more than learning.
If I was the leader of my school, I would work with our partner agencies to create and implement “too late to learn” alternatives. I would propose weekly after-school intervention groups for students who need additional instruction and/or support with learning task completion. Also, I would challenge the teachers to begin to implement standards-based grading and use embedded formative assessments and scheduled reassessment opportunities.
I began this school year with a new “never too late to learn” structure already in place in my classroom. Over the summer, I independently decided to challenge myself to learn and implement standards-based grading focused on ten standards/learning targets per trimester. For each standard, I am providing four scheduled opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery and plan to offer additional assessments as needed. When possible, I am using multiple assessment methods.
I will continue to …