Failing Freshmen Can’t Go To University Right Away

In a stack of papers called Legislation.

  • Jan
  • 25
  • 2006

I hate to categorize, but I’m going to.

Many different segments of a high school population fail classes and fail to graduate. Those segments that fail fall into one of three categories:

  1. those who have low skills;
  2. those who have no interest in school;
  3. those who have too many other things going on in their lives to ever possibly prioritize school in order to graduate.

It seems that all reasons for failing a class or failing high school boil down to one of those three reasons. For those in the third category, there’s not much we can offer them in terms of curriculum. We can offer emotional support and try to give them chances to succeed, but continuation school or independent study are probably the best places for them. For those in the second and first categories, there’s curriculum that can be offered, but the proper teacher must be found and the proper courses must be created, something much more difficult than it sounds when taking four-year universities into consideration, an option we’d like to leave open to any student for as long as possible.

What do we do for a student who fails a section of English his first year in high school and does not make that up during summer school? As a sophomore, where does that student go? Put him in English 1 again and he’s lost the option of attending a four-year university right out of high school. That would be a whole lot of students we’d essentially be sending to community college because of a mistake made when they were as young as 13 or 14. Part of the requirements for admission to the UC and CSU systems says that a student must have 4 years of English. That is, 4 years of a different English class, 4 years of English progression, not 2 years of the same class and 2 years of 2 other classes. Repeating English 1 is not an option.

This school year is the first year my school has gone without English 1(10), a class normally filled with those sophomores who failed English 1 as freshmen. In order to give those kids another chance to turn things around and still be eligible to attend a four-year university after graduation, those English 1(10) kids are currently enrolled in Composition and Literature, a course with a different title and code, an implication of progression in English.

I screwed up my freshman year in high school and I’ll bet you did to. It’s an easy year to mess around in. Lots of people don’t take school seriously their freshman year. Should a student who is 18 not have the option of attending a four-year university because of a decision made when 14? I’m not saying there’s no responsibility there, but as adults we need to acknowledge those bad choices teenagers make and provide opportunities to come back from those, to bring things around and make good choices. Many students start taking high school seriously during their junior year, a year when graduation doesn’t seem so far away. Because of a screw up during freshman year, a junior may not have the option of attending a university. That does not seem right to me.

It has now been suggested that we reinstate English 1(10) and that we keep Comp and Lit as a course for something different than a place to go after failing English 1(9). [insert rationale here, something I’m not entirely sure of; Laurie, I’ll talk to you about this soon] English 1 can be repeated and counted for high school graduation, it just won’t count for the UC requirement of 4 years of English. If we’re worried about getting kids to graduate, and we’re certainly worried about that, repeating English 1 makes sense; if we’re worried about kids having a chance to go straight into college, repeating English 1 is nonsense.

Because of budget restraints and cutbacks, we do not offer any English electives, so the only option students have to complete their English requirement is English 1, 2, 3, and 4. We have Comp and Lit in there between English 1 and English 2, but that’s the only other course of action to have 4 years of English at our school. If they mess up their freshman year, Comp and Lit is the place to make that up. If we change Comp and Lit to serve some other purpose, then how are we serving those sophomores who made a mistake freshman year? How do we make it possible for them to still attend a UC or CSU?

Here’s my moment of Krakauer: Thinking about all the possible circumstances we must take into consideration, one thought on promoting high school graduation and another thought on providing college attendance as an option for as long as possible, I cough nervously into the cold night air, see my solitary breath in the puff of smoke, and realize that no one else is going to make this decision for us.

1 comment

1. Laura(southernxyl) says:

[1/29/2006 - 11:57 am]

Is it possible that some of the kids who are playing around in 9th grade English already have the skills they’re supposed to be learning? I was too compulsive to play around but I remember being bored stiff by all the work sheets about commas and clauses and all the other things we had gone over and over ad nauseum in middle school. If you had enough money to offer electives, maybe the kids could take a test to actually bypass 9th grade English, and go straight to some kind of interesting literature class. Then the middle school kids would have an incentive to pay attention, if they’re told they can learn that stuff once and hopefully never have to fool with it again. And 9th grade English would be the remedial class, because you wouldn’t have to worry about keeping the non-remedial kids busy.