This story is shocking on many levels. This week Fox 45 in Baltimore reported on a 17-year-old high school student who was just told that instead of graduating, he is being sent back to 9th grade. How is this possible? Well, it turns out the young man has only been to school about half the time and when he was there he failed almost every class he took:
His transcripts show he’s passed just three classes in four years, earning 2.5 credits, placing him in ninth grade…
As we dig deeper into her son’s records, we can see in his first three years at Augusta Fells, he failed 22 classes and was late or absent 272 days. But in those three years, only one teacher requested a parent conference…
In his four years at Augusta Fells, France’s son earned a GPA of 0.13. He only passed three classes, but his transcripts show his class rank is 62 out of 120. This means, nearly half his classmates, 58 of them, have a 0.13 grade point average or lower.
So let’s just start with the school here. They knew this student wasn’t showing up for school and was failing nearly all his classes, yet they continued promoting him year after year. And only one teacher ever asked to talk to his family? And the same holds for at least half of the senior class. That explains the performance numbers at the school which Fox 45 published in a separate story:
STATE ASSESSMENT PROFICIENCY (’18/’19 School Year)
High School Math – Less than 5% proficient
High school English Language Arts – Less than 5% proficient
HIGH SCHOOL METRICS
4-Year Graduation Rate (Class of 2019) – 48%
I’m just going to say it. Everyone working at this school should probably be fired. I don’t know, maybe the lunch lady and the custodian were doing their jobs since no one starved to death or was killed in an avalanche of garbage. But everyone else is failing, badly.
As you’ll see, the clip below contains an interview with mother Tiffany France and, as she sees it, the school has completely failed her son. “He didn’t fail, the school failed him. The school failed at their job. They failed. They failed, that’s the problem here. They failed. They failed. He didn’t deserve that,” she said.
I completely agree that her son deserved a lot better from the school and from the city of Baltimore that runs it. However, it’s not true that her son didn’t fail. He literally failed class after class and, apparently, never mentioned it to his mother. He also failed to show up for school at all a significant percentage of the time. That didn’t happen by accident either. But to the degree the school let him and many other students get away with it and made no real effort to change the situation year after year, you could almost say they encouraged this. At a minimum they normalized it.
So, yes, I expect a teenager to know better but I expect a lot more out of the adults running the school than I do from the kid. It’s literally their job to educate. The don’t seem to have done much of that at this school.
Finally, I don’t like doing this because she’s a struggling single mom working multiple jobs, but Tiffany France is also responsible for this failure. To be clear, I absolutely believe her when she says the school made little or no effort to speak to her about her son. With a school that is failing at the basics this badly that seems entirely credible to me. But I still look at this and wonder how she could have not know anything about this for four straight years. She told Fox 45, “I’m just assuming that if you are passing, that you have the proper things to go to the next grade and the right grades, you have the right credits.”
Assuming doesn’t cut it though. Did she ever once see her son do homework? Did she really look at it? Did she ever once ask him for a report card? Did she ever once notice he was not in school when he should have been? Did she ever go to back-to-school night and meet his teachers? Did she ever talk to other parents about how their children were doing at the school? I can’t understand how a parent could miss all of that year after year. Yes, it was the school’s responsibility to contact her but as a parent she had ultimate responsibility for her son and his whereabouts.
As for what to do about it now, there’s really no good option except the obvious one: Get out of that awful school! Move if you have to but don’t hand your son back over to the people who failed him and expect better results the second time around. Fortunately, it appears his mom has already done that.
Step two should be having a serious conversation with your son about his own responsibility in this mess. Blaming the school may be completely fair in this case, but it won’t fix anything if the student (who is now almost an adult) decides not to show up half the time and never do any work. Better teachers can help a lot in setting expectations, but ultimately kids need to get the same message from home about the importance of showing up and making an effort. This is the soft bigotry of low-expectations in action.