Why are so many failing?

Discussion in 'Art Teachers' started by a teacher, Oct 13, 2015.

  1. a teacher

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    What are some strategies you all use in your art classes when you see too many kids are failing? I know the main reasons are a combination of kids having apathy and academic incompetence, but I don't want to make my classes a joke by grading too easy. I figure there isn't one particular thing I need to change but a handful of little things that will make a difference. Anyone have experience with this?
     
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  3. miatorres

    miatorres Comrade

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    Oct 13, 2015

    Although I am not an art teacher, I have had experience with middle and high school students who did not want to do any work in any of their classes, including art, home economics, auto mechanics, and metal shop.

    One strategy that other teachers and I have used was to focus on the positive by complimenting students in private when they made even the slightest amount of improvement. The reason why teachers would encourage students in private rather than in the presence of others is because with classes that are considered rough, the students who DO want to learn are afraid that others will make fun of them for doing well in school.

    Another strategy is to write a positive note home to parents when the student showed effort in class. There is a good chance that the parents have not received any positive news about their child from the school in a long time.
     
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  4. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I also teach electives, and iI grade a variety oftypes of activities: exit ticket, journals, teats, quizzes, creative projects, cooperative learning activities, Socratic seminars, etc. Because of the variety of grades, students have a number of ways to show me they understand. I still have a reputation for having among the most rigorous electives, but almost no one is failing.
     
  5. a teacher

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    How could nobody be failing? Can you explain or is it a high-performing school?
     
  6. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I said almost no one is failing. Certainly I have some students who aren't meeting standards. We are a normal school, not particularly high performing. We do have high expectations for our kids. Right now, I have 6 out of 188 students with failing grades (granted in one of my courses I have a test I need to put in the grade book that may bring a few more people below passing.) We're on a seven point scale, and I follow state standards. I plan engaging activities and give students a variety of ways to show they know something.
     
  7. a teacher

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    I'm sorry, but that's all very vague. When kids refuse to complete assignments or do homework, or they can't seem to follow basic instructions for assignments or procedures, how can you keep them from failing?
     
  8. Peregrin5

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    I reduce the number of failing students by sending home emails to parents students who are failing along with what assignments they are missing. This helps most of them, because their parents make their kids lives a living hell until they fix their grade.

    Some kids parents don't care, don't respond, or don't check their email. For those kids, I will pull them in at lunch. We have a system where yard duties will escort kids to our class at the end of their last period before lunch, and then I force them to be there until they make up their missing assignments.

    This is a double whammy. They don't want to lose their lunch time with their friends, so they get their work done in the future, AND they get the benefit of seeing good grades on their report card which they've rarely experienced. They like the feeling of success and do more work in the future without me forcing them to.

    If a kid does all of their work, they will rarely fail my class.
     
  9. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Yes. This. I call parents, email parents, etc. I text about assignments on Remind. I put assignments and other things on Edmonds. Once iI get them to experience success,they usually want to continue to.
     
  10. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I can't speak for the PP, but I can share some strategies that I've seen and/or used.

    Weigh assignments/homework less. Go to a 70/30 or 80/20 or 90/10 or even 100/0 model where 70, 80, 90, or 100% of the overall grade depends on the assessment scores and the remaining portion, if any, comes from homework and assignments If assessments are weighted more heavily than homework/assignments in the overall grade, the grade won't necessarily suffer when homework and assignments aren't completed. Obviously if the students do not practice the skill and end up failing the assessment, that's a different story. What I mean is that simply not doing the homework or assessment won't automatically lead to a failing grade.

    Develop a better system of checks and balances. Check in with students more frequently at multiple stages of the assignment or project. Before students can move to the next part, they must bring their work to you for review. This way, a missed or misinterpreted instruction can be caught right away, increasing the chance that the project will be done correctly.

    Allow different types of products whenever possible. If the objective is to, say, ensure that students know about ancient art forms, is it necessary to have them write a report? Is "writing a report" one of the standards? If not, students could demonstrate that they know about ancient art forms in a variety of ways, such as producing a podcast, taking the class on an art walk (where they select and display exemplary pieces and explain why they chose them and what they represent), creating a portfolio, writing a report, producing a video, etc. Giving students options like this could, and does (in my experience), beef up the quality of their work. Last year I did this for one of my projects and I had the most creative submissions. Besides all the posters and booklets that I expected to receive, some students made Instagram and Tumblr accounts for famous people from antiquity, and one student even created a life-sized animatronic robot that recited Cicero's speeches (recorded in the student's own voice).

    Allow and/or require redos on subpar assignments and projects. Attach this to a detention if necessary.

    Send home missing assignment and failing grade slips to parents.
     
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  11. a teacher

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    Oct 28, 2015

    These are all solid ideas-thanks.
    But is giving kids detention really reasonable? I suppose if we're talking about ES that might make sense, but HS?

    Also, the common denominator to what you guys are suggesting is that I put in a lot more work. I believe in working smarter, not harder. I am looking for efficient ways to provide intervention, which is I think, what's called for here. I am planning on putting more written instructions in front of them, doing fewer transitions in a period and slowing down/giving them more time to get things done. I do contact parents but they are ineffective. At best they will get on their kids cases for a short time.

    As far as using assessments, as an art teacher the main forms are projects, which like everything else I assign, are left incomplete or not turned in by 50% of the class. Yes, if I assign less homework, grades will improve, but the homework I assign is not a lot. It's basic to the course, such as giving them weekly sketchbook assignments (that only 20% do regularly).

    This is just such a pathetic group of kids.
     
  12. a teacher

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    Oct 29, 2015

    Hang on. Have to amend that. A couple of my classes have been doing some really good work, so I guess it's just two classes I have that are lame right now. I am calling parents as that seems to be a common practice with you guys and I've done it a lot in the past. I just thought this time I could ignore it and let them fail, but it got too much on my nerves. I had to give them a hard time by getting in touch with their parents to get on their backs!
     
  13. a teacher

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    I'm guessing your assignments are easy as well if hardly anyones failing.
     
  14. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I absolutely think that homework detention could be appropriate in a high school. Call it whatever you want: detention, homework detention, academic intervention, mandatory academic intervention, ZAP (Zeroes Aren't Permitted), something else. Make the expectation that students complete their work.

    How much of your work must be completed as homework and how much can be completed in class? In my previous school, it was next to impossible to get students to take homework seriously in elective classes. I fought that for a while until I decided that it was more important to me that they did the work not where they did it. I started devoting class time to every assignment--a reasonable amount of time where an on-task student could reasonably be expected to finish. I found that as students had more time to do their work, more of them did it (though not all of them), and the result here was that they understood things better, meaning that I could move more quickly through topics. It ended up being a win-win for the most part.

    I disagree that offering alternative product options or checking in on students at multiple stages of their projects will require more work on your part. I think that it would actually be exactly the same, if not actually less work, than what you're doing now.
     
  15. catnfiddle

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    Oh, hopefully, she's teaching the material thoroughly and has the class REALLY engaged. I say that as someone who regularly has a failure rate that makes me want to weep if I let myself think about it, but that is because many of my students choose apathy over engagement.
     
  16. MissCeliaB

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    Well, it's a general phase elective, so while it is rigorous, and I'm teaching some high-level skills, I make sure to reach students where they are. For example, in this unit we are looking at different types of figurative language in speeches. I have given them about 12 different ways to show me that they understand figurative language, so most students have found at least one way that clicks with them. I spend a lot of time building a classroom community and making sure students are comfortable with each other before we start giving speeches. I get no satisfaction out of being the "hard" teacher and making it difficult for students to pass. If my assignments are on grade level, rigorous, and follow the Common Core standards for speaking, then I feel like I'm doing my job.
     
  17. a teacher

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    How is it less work? Believe me, I've put in my share of time running after kids who don't do their work. It's not worth doing all the extra organizational stuff you are mentioning because you are the one running after them. As far as assigning less homework, I don't get the logic. If you let them do it all in class, of course you cannot cover as much material in the year.
     
  18. 3Sons

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    The corollary to this is, "If your assignments are leveled correctly, there should be a significant number of students failing."

    Is that really what you think? I would have to reject such an assertion in almost all cases (the few exceptions I could possibly come up with would be the bar exam or med school exams (and even there, I'd question the selection process)).

    You know, it's very likely they're aware you think this, and it's seriously affecting their motivation to do anything at all.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2015
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  19. a teacher

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    Trust me, they aren't mind-readers and I'm not stupid. I don't yell at them and call them pathetic. They have no clue other than when I show I'm annoyed by their lack of effort.

    In my experience there are only one of two things going on if most kids are not failing a class in a population with low-performing students. a) the class is mickey mouse or b) the teacher is bending over backwards doing a lot of extra work (justifiably or not) to keep them from failing.
    I can't teach mickey mouse as I'd have no respect for my own teaching. So the question is how much intervention am I willing to do to keep the kids from failing. Gray area...
     
  20. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Then that's the trade-off.

    I used to teach a challenging subject and I did a lot more to curb failing grades than I wanted to. My administration demanded it, though, and I wasn't about to find myself hauled into a "why are all these kids failing?" meeting.

    Still, I really don't think that frequent checks for understanding and class time for practice work will require all sorts of extra work. I think that you're unhappy with how things are but you want the kids to change instead of you having to change. Unfortunately I don't think that's going to work for you. If you want something to change, you're going to have to be the change.
     
  21. a teacher

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    I agree, which is why I'm looking into what I'm willing to do. You have to admit that when they refuse to take the class seriously and do the work assigned, they deserve to fail.

    Particularly aggravating is the fact that many of them are not failing multiple classes (unfortunately). This shows that they are making a conscious effort to be losers in my class and they have the ability to actually pass classes. What am I supposed to do with that? When I find that out about a kid, it's almost a pleasure to hand them a failing grade!
     
  22. a teacher

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    I've been contacting parents and loving how the lazy kids (50% of some of the classes) are getting slammed by their parents. Woohoo!
     
  23. Peregrin5

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    Unfortunately, that will look really bad to your admin.

    It could also be due to something in your teaching practice that's causing them to fail your class and not others. Why don't you ask admin to allow you a sub so you can observe other teachers' classrooms where students are having success. You can take away skills and ideas to use in your classroom.
     
  24. otterpop

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    Keep in mind that other teachers could be passing kids on as well. A kid getting an F in your class and a C in another may not be putting more effort into that other class. The teacher could be giving them a C just because they don't want to look bad to parents or admin.
     
  25. Peregrin5

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    But it's a different case if the ONLY class they're failing is your class. It's not likely that all of the teachers are passing them on, unless it's just that type of school.
     
  26. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    This comment seriously bothers me.
     
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  27. a teacher

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    No, typically when they have a Fail in my class they will have one other and maybe a D or two. I do think that a big part of the problem, since I really can't make my classes any easier, is that because it's an elective and we're on a schedule where they have eight classes, they are choosing to put less effort into mine because they view it as less important. I don't think I'd have the same failure rate if I was teaching an English or Math class.
     
  28. a teacher

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    I do wonder about that- if the standards in other classes are much lower. Since I'm new at the school I have no idea what's happening in their other classes. Since we have a low-performing student population it's fair to assume teachers are covering themselves so they don't have too many fails.
     
  29. gr3teacher

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    I finished 6th in my graduating class. My weighted high school average was 104%. My last art class I ever took, in 8th grade, I got a 67%, which single-handedly dropped me from first to 15th for the 8th grade year. I can absolutely guarantee that you would have considered me a "lazy kid" (post 21) and a "loser" (post 20), because I did a really good job of playing my utter lack of ability in art as being a lack of effort, but I'm guessing that would have been a minority opinion among my teachers. I'm also guessing, based on your posts here, that you never would have found out that I spent more than twice as much time working at home in that one quarter I had art than I did on any other class I took that year, combined. I'm grateful that my art teacher did find those things out, and gave me a passing grade that, based on my actual artistic ability and turned in assignments, I certainly didn't earn.
     
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  30. MissCeliaB

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    Me, too. I see myself as a partner with the parents. When I call a parent, it's because I am really concerned about a student's performance. I try to work with the parent to find strategies we can all use that will help the student me successful. My intention is not to get the student in trouble, but to work with the parent and student to figure out what works best for that kid. Sometimes, it results in a consequence for the kid, such as losing the phone until the homework is done, or having to get assignments signed in a planner each day, but I see those as natural consequences of irresponsible behavior, not as punishment. It does make me happy when I see parents take an active response to my phone call, not because the kid got what was coming to them, but because the kid has an adult who's on their team and cares about them. Not all of my students have that...
     
  31. otterpop

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    That's very true. I agree that it is highly unlikely.

    At my school, all specials teachers give grades too. Sometimes a kid will be getting okay or not good grades in the core subjects, but their PE, art, and other special grades are A's. Parents will make a big deal that their kids got "4 A's!" on their report cards - never mind that those teachers just autofill the A grades for every student. I'm in elementary, though, so that makes a large difference too.
     
  32. Peregrin5

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    The same happens here. I think most parents understand that PE and Art are the "easy" classes. We have a lot of kids who are failing every class but PE and Art. We choose to look at it as "well at least they're succeeding somewhere."
     
  33. a teacher

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    I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. Students are either putting in effort or not. If they aren't turning in work, they deserve to Fail. If a kid is working that hard in any class, how could that not be evident? You seem to be suggesting that someone could be working extremely hard in a class but at the same time not care enough to turn any work in. That seems to be a contradiction. Anyone who works hard at something wants that work to be noticed.
     
  34. a teacher

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    Well, that's ideal. The reality is that few parents work closely with teachers. Most of them either interfere or ignore their role. There's little in between. My satisfaction is based on the fact that I gave those kids an opportunity to fix the problem themselves. Many opportunities and much time. When they proved they were too immature, I had to call their parents to get them on their backs. They deserve whatever aggravation they get from their parents now.
     
  35. a teacher

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    I'm confused.
     
  36. a teacher

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    If they are easy, why are kids failing and yet getting a passing grade in core subjects?
     
  37. Peregrin5

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    Well I don't know about your class. It could be that they just don't take your class seriously, or it could be a form of rebellion, where students may not like you and show their displeasure by intentionally failing your class. I've seen instances of both happening.
     
  38. Ulrikepra

    Ulrikepra New Member

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    One of the reason is kids are so innocent they are not thinking about this competitive world
     
  39. gr3teacher

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    I turned in work. That work was just terrible because it was all I was capable of. I played it off as not caring, rather than admit I couldn't do any better. There were a few assignments I never turned in because they were so lousy I didn't even want them to be seen, and I definitely spent time in that class goofing off, because otherwise the other students in the room would have seen just how terrible I actually was. I'm sure at least some of your lazy losers are the same way, especially if they are passing all their other classes.

    If kids are doing well (or at least passing) every class except yours, it may be worth investigating exactly why they are doing well in other classes. If there are several students doing well in every class except yours... I can't help but think that the problem might not be that all these students just suddenly turn lazy when they walk into your classroom.
     
  40. MissCeliaB

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    This reminds me that I was wondering what the original poster does to combat the idea that art is something that some people can do and some can't. I know in speech we do a ton to build community in the classroom, and stress that we all have different strengths so they feel super comfortable with each other before they have to present in class in front of each other. We do a ton of building each other up, building confidence, praising small steps and progress, etc. I find that if students feel safe and supported, they are willing to take more risks.
     
  41. a teacher

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    I speak and give examples of the variety of skills in the class. I emphasize that they are graded on progress and effort, not talent. But you can't do all that community feel-good stuff in a hs art class. There's business to attend to- that of making work!
     

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