Sunrise School (a sixth through eight grade school in the White Bear Lake Area School district) Principal Christina Pierre recently announced that students enrolled in that school will not receive a failing grade this school year.
In a video meant for parents of students in that middle school, Pierre said that “grades will not include behaviors, attitude, tardiness to class, whether the assignment was turned in late or on time.”
This new grading system, which does not “include 1-49.9 percentiles for students” instead encourages students to “retake/revise tests, quizzes, papers, projects” and those students have a 10-day window to do so from the date the failing grade is posted. As such, students that are disorganized at best or lazy at worst won’t necessarily be punished for not completing school work on time. I wish those students the best of luck as they enter the real world outside of Sunrise School where tardiness, attitude and preparation play a significant role in getting and keeping a job.
According to Fox News, “The district superintendent [where Sunrise School is incorporated], Wayne Kazmierczak, was named Minnesota Association of School Administrators 2021 Superintendent of the Year” which tells you everything you need to know about what education unions value in student achievement: that fish rots from the head down.
My freshman year in high school taught me several really important life lessons that these grade school children might never learn. I came from a family that produced four generations of public-school teachers. There was never any doubt that my brother and I would go to college after high school and we were encouraged to take a rigorous array of college prep classes “while it was free” to help pave the way.
Imagine my surprise when I took freshman algebra in 9th grade and received my first failing grade on a test! After class, my algebra teacher, Mr. Anton, suggested in the understatement of the year, that I needed additional help in understanding the subject matter. My parents quickly recruited my older, math-whiz brother to assist in this difficult tutoring task. Most Monday – Thursday nights after dinner, my brother and I would sit at the kitchen table, him calmly trying to explain to me the daily assignment in a way that might resonate with my math-addled brain.
It wasn’t a pleasant school year but I managed to get through it with my brother’s help and the patience of Mr. Anton who never hesitated to stay after class to work with me. Let’s just say that there was only one math major in the Thompson family after that year and it wasn’t me. But I learned a hard lesson on paying attention in class, studying the material provided by the teacher, reaching out for help when necessary and turning in on time every assignment even those I didn’t fully master. Quitting was not an option and neither was blaming my failure on racism, sexism or any other “ism.” I ruined my GPA that year. It was me and no one else and there were no excuses to not try harder to do better. Every day.
I wish the best for these unfortunate students attending Sunrise School in White Bear Lake. One of the best lessons I learned early on in grade school was that being on time, being prepared for class and trying my best mattered – and that a failing grade meant that I needed help not that the rules and student expectations needed to be changed. That is, as former President George W. Bush like to say, “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”