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LETTER: The consequences of low expectations at the Clark County School District

In response to the Sunday commentary by Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara on proposed changes to student grading policies:

Mastery of academic standards is the goal set for students in the district. Teachers, support staff and administrators want nothing more than to see students succeed. However, Mr. Jara and the School Board seem to be out of touch with how this actually happens.

Setting high expectations with clear time lines teaches students that they have a responsibility to complete assignments, prepare for tests, attend school daily, pay attention and engage in their learning. Mr. Jara states that “students learn at different rates.” No one in education would argue that. The reasons for this, however, go beyond student ability.

When students choose not to engage in their learning — and so many parents are indifferent to their children’s education — retesting for mastery simply creates more work for teachers with no repercussions for the student to take responsibility. The “minimum F” for missing work is not new. Constantly retaking tests has become the norm. Students will often hand teachers their tests and state, “I need to retake this.” The students will admit that they didn’t study or complete the homework and class activities.

Teachers cannot stop teaching new skills to cover what students chose not to engage previously. Students often do worse on the retakes because nothing is required for them to take the test again.

Many teachers received hundreds of emails over the past few weeks from students who haven’t been in attendance for months or didn’t complete assignments who now want to know how to raise their grades as the year is coming to a close. This was the pre-pandemic norm, and students feel it is not their fault if they don’t pass because ownership of learning is no longer an expectation for them and their parents.

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