Top grades open the door to school dance in Montgomery - The Washington Post
Straight A?s = dancing: Grade celebration questioned by some
By Donna St. George, E-mail the writer
Students who earned straight A?s at Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring have been invited to a school dance Tuesday, a celebration that starts during the final period of the school day and includes a DJ, free pizza and a game room.
Students with B?s and C?s may join in later, when classes are over and pizza is no longer served. Students with lower grades are not invited at all.
Eastern?s ?Academic Achieve*ment Celebration? is not an entirely new idea in education: Schools commonly reward student success. But the idea of a middle-school party that sets students apart by letter grades ? leaving out 306 of the school?s 865 students, or 35 percent of the student body ? has raised questions at Eastern and beyond.
Some parents say children should not be excluded from school activities, and others are wary of the straight-A emphasis. While parents say student achievement is important and worthy of recognition, the celebration has spotlighted the issue of how best to reward a school?s highest achievers.
?The students that don?t get to go end up feeling bad,? said parent Karen Hanlon, whose daughter has learning disabilities and was not invited to the party. Hanlon said the dance ?separates the students into groups? in a school already divided between a highly competitive magnet program and the students who come from the immediate neighborhood.
Montgomery schools officials say principals have discretion about such events, and they point out that Eastern has other school dances and other ways to honor students. They did not say how common achievement dances are, though Eastern?s principal, Casey Crouse, said the celebration is not unlike others at Montgomery schools.
Chris Rutledge, the school?s PTSA president, said he views the event as one of many tools to encourage excellence. ?I think it?s a twofold process: The school has to, and does, help all children to strive to excel,? he said. ?And when they do, it?s important to recognize them.?
But Barbara Marinak, an associate professor of education at Mount St. Mary?s University in Emmitsburg, Md., who studies student motivation, questioned the celebration.
?You?re creating a caste system that could easily result in bullying and victimization, which is what we?re trying to prevent, especially in middle school,? Marinak said. She added, ?We?ve got 30 years of research that says extrinsic rewards do little to nothing to nurture any kind of intrinsic motivation.?
The best motivators for students are relationships with teachers, leaders, peers and mentors, Marinak said. An event such as the Eastern dance is ?a way to marginalize a ton of kids,? she said.
Crouse, the principal, said the intention is ?a congratulations and an incentive.? She said reaction from teachers and students has been positive. Eastern had a similar dance when first-quarter grades came out in the fall, she said.
?The intention is not to make those who didn?t achieve feel badly,? she said. ?This is to recognize those who did do well.?
Academically, middle school is important preparation for high school and college, Crouse said, and the dance is one way to show that hard work pays off. ?You?re not going to get every job, you?re not going to win every race,? she said. ?There?s something to be said for achieving something.?
She added that every student has an opportunity to earn an invitation to the party: ?The hope is it?s an incentive to keep up the good work.?
Crouse also said the school has multiple ways of honoring students, including recognition based on qualities such as respect and responsibility. On Monday, students who reached certain levels of academic improvement were given a certificate and a snack.
?You don?t have to be an A-B-C student to get recognition,? Crouse said.
She said last week that she had not gotten objections from parents. One asked about a quiet place for a child who did not like dancing. Another parent asked about the school?s plan to issue wristbands showing which students met grade criteria.
That parent ? Hanlon ? raised concerns about students wearing such wristbands all day long.
?She brought a great point to our attention,? Crouse said, noting that the school was rethinking the timing of its wristband distribution.
Parent Lanita Whitehurst said she understands the principal?s hope to motivate students. But ?if there is something about this that makes some kids feel excluded,? it might be time to reassess, Whitehurst said. ?Certainly I would expect that kids who achieve well would be recognized, but the question is, is this the way to do it??
Some parents worried that the dance could place unnecessary pressures on high-achieving students, who could fear exposure if they got a single B.
Parent Michelle Gluck said she appreciates the desire to celebrate academic accomplishment, much like athletic achievement. Still, she said, it might be better to include students with ?big leaps in achievement even if it doesn?t result in straight A?s.?
Parent Caitlin James said she liked the idea of a school event as a way for students to celebrate and let off steam, but she said such an event should not be organized by letter grades. ?It just feels inherently wrong to separate out the kids,? she said.
Mandi Mader, a parent in Garrett Park who treats adolescents as a therapist, said many schools post honor rolls in their hallways, but dances for achievers seem to go too far. ?There?s already so much exclusion and grouping of kids,? Mader said. ?Do we really need to make another one??
Debate - Should reward parties be allowed? Do they harm underachieving students? Do they motivate them?
I don't have a problem with some extra privileges or recognition for honor students but this kind of rubs me the wrong way. It seems to kind of rub it in the face of the other students who didn't do as well.
Mom to Lee, Jake, Brandon, Rocco
Stepmom to Ryan, Regan, Braden, Baley
Granddaughters Kylie 10/18/2010 & Aleya 4/22/2013
I never consider a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosopy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend. --Thomas Jefferson
I call bulls*it on this.
Straight A's doesn't mean high performing necessarily. Nor do lower grades mean low performing. I'm always more concerned with effort placed in studies over grades and also at what level they are challenging themselves. An "A" in a class that you are flying through means nothing. You aren't challenged. A "B" in a more challenging class is much more beneficial.
I'm all for trying to honor kids who perform at a higher level. I really am, I was one of those kids. Getting an "A" in my Portuguese class following years of Spanish study was easy for me. Getting the "D" in Geometry when I worked my rear off all year and put in tons of extra study time, tutoring etc. to try to get it (It helped...I would have failed otherwise) meant more to me. It was the first time a Math class really stumped me and challenged me and I was proud that I didn't give up since most classes came easily to me.
I think letting them leave class a little early to start is fine. That's a bonus. Having food that all kids can't have and purposefully excluding some kids from a school sponsored function is disgusting.
Mom to Elizabeth (6) and Corinne (4)
I hate perfect attendance awards too. It just promotes people to go to work or school sick so they look dedicated and then infect everyone in the process. That's been my experience for anyone going for "perfect attendance"
And I agree that there are other rewards that we gain. Being a good student, allowed me to get into college. However, a random D in a math class didn't hinder me from getting that award....see what I mean? My college didn't say...Hey Jess, glad you worked hard and took some challenging courses during your HS years but that D......sorry we can't accept you. Doesn't happen.
I make mistakes at work all the time. But, I work hard and most of the time I don't make mistakes. It helps me get things like promotions and such. It doesn't help me get little side extras from work. That's weird. Why would I expect middle schoolers to understand that difference if I know adults that couldn't?
Mom to Elizabeth (6) and Corinne (4)
I'm totally fine with it. I think its good to give kids incentive to be high achievers, even if everyone is not successful at doing so.
My kids school has a good behavior award per trimester. They either get to do an after school activity or use the school's bounce house or something else if their discipline record is clean. I like that too.
I have a daughter that will likely never be a straight A student....i want the message to her NOT to be that other kids can't get recognized for such an impressive achievement, just because she likely can't do it herself. I would rather teach her to recognize her own strong suits and positive traits and be willing to acknowledge the achievements of others.
And while it is anecdotal experience....lack of academic achievement never seemed to be a good predictor of who was an outcast or not. In my experience a larger portion of outcasts were more likely to also be high academic achievers. This is definitely not the crux of my argument...but simply part of the reason why I'm not so concerned.
Growing up, it was my ability to do well academically that kept me from being miserable at school. I would have hated if that wasn't treated as a big deal...because pretty much in every other way i as a person was decidedly NOT a big deal. At least that is socially how i was made to feel.
My kids have a program at their school, called the gold card, and I really love the way it is set up. At the beginning of each term a kid automatically has a gold card after that it is theirs to lose. They lose if based on a lot of things, some academic, some behavior. One term my oldest DD lost hers because she didnt turn in a couple of assignments. She was horrified and hasnt made that mistake again. I do not think she will ever be a straight A student, but I like that her teachers see she is working hard.
At the end of the term all the gold card kids get some sort of reward. Today was the party for the 6th graders and I think DD said they were going to have a carnival set up in the gym.
If you lose your gold card during the term you get to spend some time with one on one tutoring during the party
Molly, Morgan, Mia and Carson
We had gold and silver cards in middle school too. Awesome program. We didn't have them to lose it was earned and it was based on conduct and effort. If you got a 1 in each you got a gold if you got a combo of a 1 and a 2 or both were 2's you got a silver. 3's and 4's didn't get them. It allowed us to go to the head of the lunch line, get out to our lockers and to the bus quicker at the end of the day and you got gift cards for local businesses too.
I love that program. Much better to strive for...great effort in class, great conduct in school.
Mom to Elizabeth (6) and Corinne (4)