Header Image (book)


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Improving Graduation Rates

From Prince George's County, Maryland, comes this story of "earning" a high school diploma the wrong way – that is, making sure that student achievement looks good on paper but without improving the quality of education:

...One [teacher] said he did everything he could this year to help a senior headed toward failure — contacting parents, alerting a counselor and an administrator and referring him to a school intervention team. But little changed, so the teenager got an E — a failing grade — in an English course required for graduation.

A couple weeks later, he said, he spotted the student in a cap and gown, collecting a diploma. How that happened remains a mystery, he said. “It solidified what I’d heard about grades being changed and that administrators will do whatever it takes to make sure they meet their graduation rates,” he said.

At another school, a teacher said two of her seniors this year missed weeks of school, did not do assignments or make up work, and failed her course. But the principal encouraged students and their families to appeal, she said, and their course grades were revised to a C and a D. She was told both graduated.


At a third high school, an employee with firsthand knowledge said grade-change forms are often signed by the principal but not by teachers. The employee said the forms are often attached to academic “packets” designed to compensate for missed or failed work, but many of the packets are only partly complete.

“I think it’s all a numbers game,” the employee said, alleging that more than 100 students at the school graduated with the help of such changes during the past four years.

Four-year graduation rates in Prince George’s have jumped from 74.1 percent in 2013 to 81.4 percent in 2016...the largest gain for that period of any school system in Maryland....
Read the rest of Some employees in a large Maryland school system see signs of grade tampering, if the Washington Post's subscriber wall will allow you to do so.

By tampering with grades which are supposed to reflect students' achievement, the Prince George's County Public Schools System has denigrated and devalued the high school diplomas for all the students enrolled in the school system!

Of course, educational malpractice is not unique to the Prince George's County Public School system. See Dozens of Atlanta educators falsified tests, state report confirms (2011) and Public school employees who falsify student data are making a mockery of reform efforts (2012) and When Teachers, Not Students, Do The Cheating (2014) – to cite just three articles on the topic.

Lest we think that only public schools engage in such unethical behaviors, I am here to tell you that private schools sometimes cheat.

In fact, at the last private school in which I taught, administrators often overrode teachers' submitted grades so as to put higher grades on the report cards.  The administration's philosophy at the time was that parents shouldn't see C's on their children's report cards because, after all, the parents were paying hefty tuition rates. As a result of this grade cheating on the part of the administration, several other teachers and I resigned at the end of the school term.

There were plenty of applicants to fill the vacancies we created. Mammon triumphs, after all.

Sadly, for especially the last five years, I've been something similar occurring in the homeschooling movement. Most parents now are looking for good grades for their children so that their children look good on paper – never mind the erosion of learning itself.

Is it any wonder that we are seeing a decline in actual education (student learning), particularly in high school and beyond?  Even worse, is it any wonder that we are seeing an overall  decline in student interest in acquiring knowledge?

The state of education in a nutshell (click directly on the graphic to enlarge it):


  1. Bureaucracies are generally one of two things: inept or corrupt. In the case of educational entities, particularly those run within state or county governments predominated by blacks, it is both. The American people deserve no more than as you have reported, particularly since the American people are more than happy to pay for the things they value: football and cheerleading over learning. Teachers, administrators, staff are no more than this: people who value their hefty salaries; they will do whatever it takes to protect their rice bowls and the long term interests of our nation (or students) be damned.

    1. Mustang,
      they will do whatever it takes to protect their rice bowls and the long term interests of our nation (or students) be damned


      And these public schools systems also want to keep the inflow of federal dollars, which are often determined by the on-paper graduation and test scores.

      Grade inflation is another problem. Grade inflation is often accomplished by multiple choice "exams." Such "exams" typically measure only recognition and bypass both concepts and synthesis. I've seen these dumbed down "exams," which pervade both regular track and honors track courses -- AP courses, not so much.

      particularly those run within state or county governments predominated by blacks

      SHHHHH! We mustn't look at the elephant in the room! The Prince George's Public Schools system is predominantly black.

  2. Government schools have devalued education long before ever tampering with grades.

    We're mindful of the optics of home school grading, and in most cases, we hold our daughters to a higher standard than government schools [while still having to administer standardized testing], simply because we know they may get increased scrutiny when applying for college. Fortunately, we also have the latitude to allow marksmanship, fist aid and wilderness survival skills as electives....topics that are eschewed, reviled and ignored in any public school setting.

    - CI

    1. CI,
      [Homeschooled students] may get increased scrutiny when applying for college

      Get around that by (1) doing everything you can to ensure that your children get high scores on the SAT or ACT and (2) making sure that their college-application essays are superior. I know of specific cases on homeschooled students being held to a higher standard on both of those admissions tools -- especially the application essay(s).

      BTW, it is almost never too early to begin on the Common Application essay. The prompts for that essay changed this year and will likely not change again for several years. If you want some specific tips for the College Application essay, contact me by email:

      alwaysonwatch2-at-gmail-dot-com. I know a few tricks of the trade!

    2. Definitely tracking on the SAT/ACT angle already, but you better believe I'll reach out for some application techniques! Much appreciated.


  3. We need to look at the dead wood teachers as well. It needs to change so that they can be fired. I had several who could have cared less and teaching was none existent. This is not to disagree with you, and we need to honor those teachers who inspire as well.

  4. Bunkerville,
    We need to look at the dead wood teachers as well.

    I know students who have demanded to leave the public education system for exactly that reason.

    Right now, I have a Latin One student whose teacher stopped teaching the second quarter of the 2016-2017 school term. For weeks from February through June, I had to sweep up after this non-teacher because this student will be taking Latin Two, the teacher of which is "a tiger teacher." This "tiger teacher" will have her hands full with the almost all the students coming woefully unprepared into her Latin Two class!

    Apparently, the principal is aware of this woefully inadequate Latin One teacher but does nothing about the situation.

    The problem I'm describing with the above Latin One teacher also applies to at least one chemistry teacher and one math teacher at that same school. In honors courses, at that!

    BTW, students frequently pick up on the fact that they have to suffer through the school year, sometimes year after year, with teachers who are marking time instead of teaching.

    The situation is even worse in "regular" courses (as opposed to honors, AP, and IB courses). It seems that teachers actually resent teaching "regular" courses.

    Ironically, the oldest teacher in the above public schools system, does a phenomenal job of teaching English (8th grade High Honors). And he's in his 90s! Obviously, he loves teaching and views it as a calling instead of as a career.

  5. CI mentioned:
    [Homeschooled students] may get increased scrutiny when applying for college

    Not only homeschooled students! Asians, particularly the Chinese, are subject to quotas, particularly at the top universities (Stanford, Cal Tech, MIT, etc.).

    Private school students, particularly those who have graduated from Christian schools, are subject to increased scrutiny -- particularly at public universities and the Ivy Leagues.

  6. CI,
    Government schools have devalued education long before ever tampering with grades.

    I agree, but I'd like for you to elaborate.

  7. The not-so-well-kept secret...

    The raid-the-taxpayer's-purse real estate taxes, which are mostly dedicated to the local public schools system, are being justified by the promotion of the locale's excellent public schools system. To continue to justify the rade-the-taxpayer's-purse real estate taxes, the community colleges, and even the four-year colleges, have been dumbed down.

    What a death spiral for education, for the acquisition of knowledge!

    And what a scam!

    Is it any wonder that one has to complete graduate school to acquire a decent 9th grade education?

  8. Please see the chart "How the U.S. compares on science, math and reading scores" at THIS LINK. The mathematics scores for the U.S. are particularly awful!

    1. HERE is additional information:

      The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the results of its 2015 global rankings on student performance in mathematics, reading, and science, on the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA.

      The PISA is a worldwide exam administered every three years that measures 15-year-olds in 72 countries. About 540,000 students took the exam in 2015.

      The US saw an 11-point drop in average score for math, while remaining relatively flat in reading and science. ...

  9. We are in the era of No Child Left Without a Trophy, so it makes sense.

    We are an unserious nation filled with unserious people ill-served by rotten, termite-infested institutions.

    1. Due to budget restraints, the trophies have been replaced by participation ribbons and smiley-face stickers......

      - CIt

    2. Silver... I remember playing Little League and when we didn't win, we still got trophies... for participating. That was in the 60's.

      I think most of us threw them out. They didn't mean anything. We did the same thing with the green ribbons for 4th place in track. What did that signify? Blue = Win, Red = Second, White = Third... Green = On the track???

      I could on, but you get the point. This is one lib who hates that practice and knows we are not better for it.

    3. There must be no losers! Sheesh.

      I'm not sure when all this business of no child without a trophy began. In the early 1990s perhaps. It was at that point that I noticed this stupidity overtaking elementary school education.

      BTW, I think that honor rolls have been eliminated. I recently asked one of my best students -- he's in a public school -- and has never heard the term "honor roll." Maybe the GPA replaced the honor roll?

  10. Cheating is rampant. I cheered 'rising' SAT score years ago -- until Thomas Sowell wrote how they dumbed down the test. The schools touted 'higher scores' but never mentioned the scoring had changed significantly.

    In college I had a summer class in upper division history. There were 3 or 4 teachers taking it for course credits for the automatic pay increase. They cheated on the final exam and were ratted out to the professor. He gave them the option to flunk the course (hence lose pay boost) or re-take another final and whatever grade the final course grade was, it would be dropped one grade. They took it, but had to really study up 'cos they were already borderline.

    So ... do employers now have to ask at job interviews "have you ever had a course grade changed? And if so, please describe the circumstances." Wouldn't expect much truth, but a lot of foot shuffling might be a clue.

    1. Baysider,
      You are so right about the rampant cheating!

      When did we get to that point?

  11. OH, I ain't sure this is a big deal...Me and my classmates learn good English, it's good enuff to talk .. Ya, me and my class studyed every day. we talked about NucUlar energy and I learned New YOrk city is going to be drowned.
    It ain't a big deal....I even read me a book last summer!

    1. Z,
      Sadly, many are just as you have satirized!

    2. Honestly, AOW...imagine saying "ME AND MY SISTER?" "Me and HIM!"? It's impossible.......yet it's the new grammar.
      They can't write cursive, they can't hold a fork or a pen properly, but they know the Republicans want dirty water and air.

  12. The notion that "every child deserves a college education" has been responsible for a big part of the devolving standards in the overall quality of Aericab education. All people are NOT created equal when it comes to the distribution of talent, intelligence, motivation, good looks, robust health, creativity, etc.

    I'm reasonably sure that no more than ––let us say –– THIRTY PERCENT of all students are capable of doing high level academic work, and of that number some are gifted in math and science, others in language, history, literature, et al, Few are so perfectly rounded as to have equal strength in all areas of endeavor.

    In glorifying "academic achievement" above the acquisitiin and development of practical, marketable skills such as auto mechanics, electrical engineering, plumbing, carpentry, landscape architecture, and the practical organizational and logistical skills needed to run a successful business, etc. we have neglected –– and denigrated by implication –– the value of apprenticeship, manual training, fine motor skills, craftsmanship, artisanship, that are vitally necessary to the smooth running an orderly, pleasant, optimally productive society.

    Instead of glorifying academic achievement in the spurious, highly over-rated fields such as Black Studies, Women's Studies, Queer Studies, Social Work, Counseling the Depraved, the Degnerate and the Dysfunctional, etc., we should start to promote respect and admiration for those who've acquired practical skill and knowledge that enable them to GET MUCH NEEDED THINGS DONE.

    So let's give three cheers (at least!) for TRADE SCHOOLS, APPRENTICESHIP, and PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE in the WORKADAY WORLD –– something used to be called The School of Hard Nocks,

    1. FT,
      The notion that "every child deserves a college education" has been responsible for a big part of the devolving standards

      Exactly! I see this problem quite often.

      Somehow, to many Americans today -- particularly on the two coasts -- believe that blue collar labor is somehow shameful.

      I'm reasonably sure that no more than ––let us say –– THIRTY PERCENT of all students are capable of doing high level academic work

      Agree, agree, agree! We in education are often trying to fit square pegs in a round hole. Everyone suffers along the way when we, as a society, refuse to recognize the important of the different intelligences.

      And is it any wonder that so many people today suffer from clinical depression? Misfits such as I describe above are unhappy; they have not found their Personal Legend (See Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist)

    2. I couldn't agree more with you, FT....trade schools, etc....we have no trades people anymore! Germany has fabulous programs for those not going to college, they work HARD in their internships in trades and , for example, a car mechanic can take 20 years to get "Meisterschaft" status, or 'master tradesman'...there's pride and confidence in working with one's hands...in Germany. Here, we laugh at anybody not in college..a great disservice to our workforce.
      To say nothing about how many people might love this country even more if love of country wasn't indoctrinated out of the college students....another huge disservice the Left won't realize until it hits them HARD in the face.

  13. The worst thing about cheating is this: those who cheat or condone it forget that there is a God who sees it, and will do something to punish those who cheat and those who aid and abet the cheater. Our Almighty Lord is seething and waiting patiently for those involved to stop, lest they face severe punishment.


We welcome civil dialogue at Always on Watch. Comments that include any of the following are subject to deletion:
1. Any use of profanity or abusive language
2. Off topic comments and spam
3. Use of personal invective