Not Failing Our Students

Academy for G.O.D. Principal Grant Dailey recently updated parents on the progress reports released to their students. We thought his update would be celebrated by an audience larger than just the students’ parents, so we posted here for you to read as well!

Recently we distributed quarter 3 progress reports. While elementary students received updates on the progress they have made in achieving benchmarks, Jr High and High School students were mailed a printout of their current grade in each course. I am pleased to report that our Jr High and High School students had a great third quarter! Of the 300+ grades given at the third quarter, only 5 were failing between both high school and jr. high. This is a great improvement from the end of Q1 in the Fall, where we had 13 failing grades from 7-12th grade.

As a lead teacher to the Jr High students, Mr. Aaseby invests time and care into the students not only academically, but also socially and emotionally.

As a lead teacher to the Jr High students, Mr. Aaseby invests time and care into the students not only academically, but also socially and emotionally.

I share this with you not to boast our grade statistics. That is not who we are as a school. Much of our effort is directed at measuring success by metrics other than GPA. Rather, I want to highlight our approach to grading students and working with those individuals that do struggle. We do not give grades to elementary students until the last quarter of 6th grade. We do this because we want to introduce grades at a point in their development where students can differentiate the evaluation of their effort (a grade) from their value as a person. Once a student enters Jr High, however, the reality is their work is graded. School is not a YMCA soccer league; we don’t hand out arbitrary participation trophies to each student for just showing up. Sometimes students fail to do homework or perform poorly on a test. But our conviction is that we have the responsibility to do everything within our power to help students improve.

Let’s face it: failing is the worst. No kid wants to fail, and a sustained feeling of failure, coupled with not getting the help they need, often ends in students just giving up. Take for example national dropout statistics (1). Decades ago, dropout rates were largely related to factors other than school: “chose to work, got married, enlisted in the army.” By the 2000s, however, the rationale for students dropping out shifted. “Getting failing grades, could not keep up with school work, thought could not complete requirements, couldn’t get along with teachers.” The increased expectations on students and the heightened emphasis on college readiness (both measured almost exclusively in alphanumeric terms) have led to a school environment where students that fail also fail to get support, with many quitting in the end.

We understand the obligation we have to help students that fall behind. When a student is failing or on the verge of failing, we work with them to help move them in the right direction. Study halls, plans for make-up work, opportunities to retest and retake. Most important, we meet with our students to help them see that they aren’t bad or a failure themselves. They are learning to manage their time and make their effort match the responsibilities at school. This is, for us, more important than getting in the work that was missed: we want our students to develop the confidence that comes from recognizing they are children of God, created in his image to do good works (Eph. 2:10).

All this to say, I’m very proud of our Jr High and High School students this semester. These reports are a piece of the evidence that they are continually growing and improving, not just academically, but in understanding what they are capable of as children of God.

(1) Jonathan Jacob Doll, Zohreh Eslami, Lynne Walters, “Understanding Why Students Dropout of High School, According to their Own Reports,” Sage Journals 3, no. 4 (January 1, 2013), https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2158244013503834