Media flap over Lowndes grading

Interesting timing, the Chamber deciding to pay off CUEE’s debts from pushing school consolidation, followed shortly by a media campaign to discredit the Lowndes School System.
17 January 2012:
Chamber of Commerce board decides to repay CUEE’s outstanding vendor debts in exchange for owning CUEE’s education document.
3 February 2012:
Maureen Downey blogged for the AJC, No zeros in school any longer. But aren’t there well deserved zeros? Despite admitting that the Lowndes school grading policy is a common practice in many systems and is intended to make sure students actually learn, she ends with this spin:
But aren’t there well deserved zeros?

I would argue that middle school teachers have some students who simply don’t do the work. They get it; they just don’t do it. The Lowndes policy calls for multiple interventions for obdurate students, but wouldn’t a zero make an important statement?

How else do adolescents learn that there are consequences for failure to comply with assignments? In the classroom, it is a zero. In the workplace, it is termination.

3 February 2012:
Lowndes School System Superintendent Dr. Steve Smith explained Lowndes grading policies, including this bit:
The Lowndes County Schools recently released grading guidelines for parents to clarify what has been our current practice on reporting of grades and to reaffirm our commitment to mastery learning by all students. For the past year and a half, our practice in grades 3-8 has been….
The point being that this is not a new policy.
The rest of Dr. Smith’s introductory paragraph:
…that on nine-week and progress grade reports no grade average will be reported lower than a 60. Students with a failing average for one grade report can still earn a passing score for the year, rather than being destined for failure by one bad grading period. The guidelines for students in grades 3-8 included some new expectations that students must complete all their work and that teachers will provide additional opportunities to master material when students do not succeed the first time.
That reads to me that the Lowndes school system is going out of its way to try to get students to succeed.
4 February 2012:
Local radio personality Scott James goes on Fox and Friends to complain about Lowndes grading policy Brittany D. McClure refered to it in the VDT as
The new grading policy….
That’s quite interesting, considering it’s not a new grading policy. No wonder Dr. Smith complained about that reporter’s reporting.
7 February 2012:
The media frenzy spreads, for example here’s Patricia Walston in, No zeroes for students in Valdosta GA: “Zero” test grade to be banned in Georgia school Despite the inflammatory headline, she gets it:
Atlanta Public Schools were recently disgraced when teachers were caught changing the test scores for hundreds of students. These tests are never fair to the students anyway. These tests are more to test the teachers than the children. What the children learn will be apparent in many other areas other than an electronic test scoring machine.

The new agenda may be just what kids need. If a student makes lower than 70 on a test out of 100 points, they will be given the chance to retake the test; and redo the assignments until a passing grade is earned. The PTA could become involved in re-testing children; and could be done after school so the students would not miss any teaching time. This should spur them on to do their homework and study.

As a former student in the Atlanta City Schools, a mother of three, grandmother of seven, and great-grandmother of five, I am inclined to believe that this is a move forward in a great direction. I have seen a lot of bright kids drop out of school because they eventually come to think they will never succeed. This carries over into every aspect of their lives as adults. Atlanta jails are filled with kids who felt they were unworthy in school.

Not to mention it costs taxpayers less to spend a bit more time educating instead of locking up the same people later.
12 February 2012:
The media frenzy spread to Savannah today, where Geveryl Robinson wrote for Savannah Now, School policy to reward potential is a total zero, repeating Maureen Downey’s meme from the AJC:
In the real world, not completing work assignments, not showing up, not caring about tasks that are assigned doesn’t equal success; it equals unemployment.
Nevermind that the point of the policy is to get students to do the work, and to get parents involved if necessary to accomplish that.
What’s all this got to do with CUEE and the Chamber? Well, who can say? But the coincidence of timing sure does look like the beginning of a long-term “teach the controversy” campaign to discredit Dr. Smith in particular and the Lowndes County School System in general. Dr. Smith and Dr. Troy Davis were among the most effective spokespeople in helping the Valdosta School Board oppose the Chamber and CUEE’s school “unification” or consolidation referendum, which the people of Valdosta defeated four to one.

The Chamber obviously hasn’t given up. I don’t know whether it’s the Chamber doing this or somebody else, but this looks to me like the beginning of the next attempt at school consolidation.

Meanwhile, parents and taxpayers who actually care about education can provide input for tuning Lowndes school grading policies. I would suggest first finding out what those polices are from the school system itself, rather than depending on the press for that.


3 thoughts on “Media flap over Lowndes grading

  1. Amy

    The reporter didn’t call it “new”, Troy Davis did when he sent it to all the teachers. Maybe you should talk with some teachers who are deeply against the policy before you start ranting. And to correlate this with consolidation is ridiculous, you’re just stretching for controversy.

  2. Barbara Stratton

    I found the controversy over the Lowndes Grading Policy convenient timing for last week’s House vote on HR 1162 for a GA Constitutional Amendment to allow the state to establish Charter Schools with no oversight by local boards of education. HR 1162 failed the necessary 2/3 vote on 02/08/12. However,it was approved to be reconsidered on 02/09/12 so it has not gone away. Our 3 South GA republican representatives all voted in favor of HR 1162. (No surprises there, but we will remember in November.) Meanwhile part of the reason HR 1162 failed was the state Democratic Caucus undercut the House vote by requesting Democrats deny HR 1162 in favor of their version HR 1335, which they say goes further in allowing state officials to over ride local school board denials of special schools.
    Obviously CUEE is not the only party interested in undermining and over riding local school board authority. However, I suspect CUEE had a hand in the phone campaign asking Lowndes school parents to call Rep. Shaw if they were in favor of HR 1162 because we all know that is one of their tactics. The message did not say to call if they were against it. CUEE is definitely still very much in the mix for discrediting local school board authority and our elected officials are evidently in their corner.

  3. Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange

    More about what Dr. Smith says the reporter got wrong:
    “Some accounts in the media have inflamed the situation by inserting into their reporting such unsupported opinions as “The grading guide appears to throw accountability to the wind.” Dr. Troy Davis provided written responses to questions submitted by Valdosta Daily Times reporter Brittany McClure. The February 1 article presents as fact the reporter’s opinion “Rather than the student’s fault, Davis feels that giving a zero is the fault of the teacher,” but this statement was not expressed by Dr. Davis. This same reporter now is asking board members in submitted questions, “How do you feel this grading policy will benefit the children of Lowndes County when it appears to do the exact opposite?” It is clear that the media have already determined how to present this story, and they are picking facts now to complete their narrative. ”
    I’d be happy to talk to some teachers about the policy.
    Send ’em over.
    Having spent a year researching consolidation, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find some of the former pro-consolidation folks among those pushing this media campaign against the Lowndes School System. I also think Barbara has a good point about the timing related to HR 1162. Some charter schools are a good thing, but charter schools established over the objections of the local school boards are something else.

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