Today was the last day of year 8 of my teaching career. This has been a good year overall (professionally, anyway). The kids I had this year were fantastic and I had very few discipline problems. They actively participated in class for the most part, and were generally friendly and polite.
However, as I contemplated grades, things started looking less rosy. I have a higher failure rate at this school than I did in Texas - and my belief is that it is at least partly due to the extremely high transient rate at my school here in Washington. I had a new student transfer in at the beginning of June. I have had 2-3 drops and 2-3 additions per period PER QUARTER, and that has been the norm for all three years I have taught at this school. It is extremely hard to pick up your classes when you are constantly moving around and I know that is part of the reason for the increase in the failure rate.
The final number of kids failing my class this year was 6 or 7 per class period, with the exception of my 6th period, with 15 failing. This is frustrating to me, especially as "failing" is 59% or lower. In Texas, it was 69% or lower. And of course, the 15 in my 6th period........sheesh. I have no words for that. Well, actually, I have quite a lot of words. None of them are appropriate, so I shall refrain.
Of course, as a teacher, I worry about why. Why did so many fail in 6th period? Why are so many failing overall? I feel that my class is structured to be really quite easy. Everything is done in class. Homework is only assigned once a week. There is little to no reading done outside of class (due to a shortage of books). So WHY is my failure rate so high?
I do know that part of it is attendance. The district I am in changed their attendance policy this year, due to a fear of possibly being sued (there was no ACTUAL lawsuit, they were just afraid that they might, at some point, possibly be sued...so they changed the policy...just in case). Previously, a student could accumulate up to 11 absences (including tardies, which counted as 1/3 of an absence) before losing credit for a particular class in a semester. If they accumulated more than 11, they had to appear before a committee and appeal to get credit. If they had a really good reason, and had worked to make up the work, and were passing their class despite the high number of absences, they might be able to get credit anyway. This year, there is no attendance policy in place, and it shows.
3-4 of the failures in each of my classes are kids that had more than 12 absences in my class (not including tardies), so I know that is part of the reason they are failing. But it still can't be the ENTIRE reason. After all, that only accounts for half of my failures, except for that pesky 6th period, where it only accounted for 1/5 of the failures.
So I went back over my grades. With the exception of 1 or 2 kids who have other issues, the biggest reason for my failures is that my kids are not doing their homework. I am certainly not going to cut back on assigning homework, since I feel that we really assign so little as it is, and we work really hard to make sure that homework is targeted towards a very specific skill or concept. We are going to be doing more reading at home next year, but how do I get them to DO their homework? Grades don't seem to be a working motivator.
So....I'll be starting my summer with this problem rolling around in my head. And of course, I would welcome any suggestions from teachers that have had this problem and have managed to improve your passing rate.