Why Students Feel Entitled to Grades they Haven’t Earned

by Christopher Paslay

Social justice is fueling our student’s entitlement mentality.

It’s the middle of November–report card time.  Students are now going through the ritual of approaching their teachers and asking if there is anything they can do for extra credit to get their grade where they want it to be.  My stock answer to this question is, Yes, and you can start by doing the classwork that is due today.

On a rare occasion, a student who is up to date with all his work and is looking for that extra assignment to give him that extra edge will request additional work, and it is then and only then that I agree to give extra credit.

It’s interesting how today’s youth feel entitled to certain grades, regardless of whether or not they have earned them.  I’ve been privileged over the past 16 years to teach a wonderful and motivated group of students, but I’ve also had the other extreme–the slackers and game players who spend the majority of their time trying to work the system; if they spent half as much time doing their work as they do trying to avoid it, they’d all be on the honor roll.

I often wonder where this entitlement mentality comes from.  How in the world do they think they deserve an “A” or “B” when they haven’t completed a third of the work to earn such a grade.  More puzzling still, where do they get the notion that they can make up a semester’s worth of papers, projects, oral reports, journals, etc. with one lousy extra credit assignment?  (The best is when a student misses a week’s worth of classes–96 minutes a pop–and demands all the make-up work . . . ASAP, if you please . . . as if it’s even possible to make up so much lost class time by taking home a text and copying the information from a classmate).

If I had to speculate, however, I would guess this mentality stems at least in part from a concept known as social justice–or put another way, the liberal orthodoxy that places “fairness” over merit, the idea that in the end, everyone must be equal and that it doesn’t matter how we make it that way (the ends justify the means).

The protest over the admission tests given at eight New York City elite high schools is a case in point.  In September, a coalition of civil rights groups filed a federal complaint attempting to lower the admission standards of these schools claiming the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) is too difficult and discriminates against black and Latino students.

Another example took place last August, when the SRC eased The Philadelphia School District’s student code of conduct in an effort to keep teachers and administrators from suspending or expelling too many students.

The Most recent (and troubling) example of “fairness” over merit is the new movement to lower the admission standards of charters and other special admit schools.  Operating under the guise of eliminating “significant barriers to entry,” this movement puts a double whammy on Philadelphia’s high achieving students and their families by attacking the applications of exemplary schools such as Green Woods Charter and Eastern University Academy.

Our city’s motivated, academically advanced children and their families are now being swarmed by marxist social justice advocates at both ends: they can’t get an education in their neighborhood schools because civil rights groups are fighting to keep their wayward and unruly peers in classrooms where they rob them of their right to learn; and they can’t distinguish themselves in charters or special admit schools because liberals are fighting to water-down applications and admission tests so the not-so-motivated and/or academically inclined can take up an equal amount of seats.

Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to have dawned on such advocates that if a student and his family can’t pass the muster on the application, the chances are they won’t pass the muster on the advanced curriculum; social justice folk operate under the false notion that if you put an average student with average intelligence and motivation into an elite school, he will somehow become elite overnight–presto change-o.

The notion of “justice” under social justice is also interesting.  Social justice for whom, exactly?  The 85 percent of hardworking students who get their educations compromised on a daily basis because the rights of the violent 15 percent are more important?  Is there social justice for the mathematically and linguistically gifted child who gets bumped out of an academically elite school because he wasn’t the right skin color and ruined the quota?  Is it socially just to discount the planning and wherewithal of organized families who have done their homework and research and have completed the rigorous application to the special admit school by accepting someone less qualified via a watered-down application?

But it isn’t the fact that this so called “fairness” is grossly unfair to a whole group of people (ahem . . . educational socialism . . . ahem . . . the ends justify the means), but the most worrisome part is that instead of raising the bar for everyone, instead of calling on the mediocre to raise their expectations, the opposite happens: we set our sites on the lowest common denominator.

Think about.  Lower the admission standards at NYC’s elite schools.  Ease the student code of conduct in Philadelphia public schools.  Water down applications to charter and special admit schools.  Lower, lower, lower; it’s no wonder that showing a photo ID to vote is too daunting a task for people of this mentality.

People who believe in incentivizing success, raising expectations, and living in a society based on merit rather than on grievances and the mantra of victimization (ahem . . . conservatives), would fight to teach these students and their families that with determination, they can overcome any obstacle; what they wouldn’t do is throw in the towel and lower the standards.

It’s the middle of November–report card time.  Time for students to seek out that game changing extra-credit assignment our socialist education system has promised them that they are all entitled to.

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13 Comments

Filed under Charter Schools, Standardized Testing

13 responses to “Why Students Feel Entitled to Grades they Haven’t Earned

  1. Martin Zehr

    The fundamental issue does appear to be what have been conflicting perspectives for some time, equality or excellence for public education. The nature of the issues have become so profound that it is impossible to have both. Equality has been implemented to mean, bringing down the standards of all students so they meet at a lower level of achievement. Excellence has turned into a lottery system where chance affords the chosen children a better educational experience. It is not a matter of funding, as much as it is: an educational ethic that re-establishes pre-PARC vs. Commonwealth of PA
    a breakdown in the enforcement of classroom discipline, teachers cheating on tests to enhance their scores, administrators monitoring teachers and evaluating them on the basis of repeated observations while doing nothing to address student conduct, teacher rand a rising median age, inclusion denying Special Education students the kind of services they need to maximize their performance levels and devolping adequate vocational and self-help curricula, that they can utilize in their adult lives, presuming that college attendance is the objective of all students and social promotions and other actions that result in rising drop-out rates and student frustration. http://www.mdecgateway.org/olms/data/resource/4009/Diverse%20Knowledge%20and%20Skills.pdf

  2. SNE

    Very Simple Solution.
    INVOLVE Teachers in Public Education REFORM …Not Business People. Only then will Schools run Effectively, Practically and for the BENEFIT OF THE CHILDREN.and not the mightly $$$$$$$$
    .And we especially in PA need to fight against the NEW Legislation that allows ANYONE WITH A FINANCE OR BUSINESS RELATED DEGREE to take a few courses and RUN A SCHOOL OR SCHOOL SYSTEM!!!
    ( Principal or Superintendent)

    Tell me this…How can someone be a leader to teachers if they themselves have never EXPERIENCED THE “WHOLE” of teaching including parenting, mentoring, drying eyes, meeting and greeting parents, phone calls home, filling out CSAP, RTII, Book Slips, Roll Sheets, Test Forms, Seating Charts and many more. Todays Schools fall apart because the inexperienced Administrator FORCES teachers to accomplish the impossible while they are doing the very best that they can…Sure!!! Who cares if they need to breathe, go potty, write evaluations, lessons/plans…they MUST GIVE UP TIME for common planning, coverage or to move their entire room contents all by themselves because NO ONE REALLY CARES !!!
    So it LOOKS LIKE the Principal knows what they are doing to the OUTSIDE WORLD…but inside??? OMG

    AND AT THE END OF THE DAY/ YEAR??? The School Leader/s push kids through ANYWAY…gives them the higher grade and lets them pass…no work…OK…do this one sheet paper for 108 days of no work….how about you do some community service..rake the leaves…I’ll give you credit for the English class you have failed… Oh Yes…You’re the class sponsor’s favorite…go ahead…we will hold back these people who did 63 average work.. Can we all say “ENTITLEMENT” sure but it’s not just the kids!!
    So why not just give them that “A” or “B”…in the first place… the grades are changed in the end to push them through by the School Leaders!!! ( not all..but many) AND NO ONE CHECKS???

    Everyone’s Children are ENTITLED to an Excellent Education…My question is: “When are families going to wake up and demand it?? ” Teacher’s are getting tired of fighting…Better step up Parents/ Guardians!!!

    nuf said..SNE

  3. JHG

    Great article, Chris! You voiced many of the same sentiments I have, and I am a liberal (progressive.) We English teachers are constantly faced with students asking to turn in a book report (a dumb assignment, usually resulting in students copying blurbs from a book jacket) to make up for a semester’s worth of undone assignments, or parents/students asking for worksheets that can be turned in for credit. Who uses worksheets to teach English?? That, coupled with a principal who tells the students to ” ask your teachers for extra-credit work so you can pass” makes it impossible for teachers to maintain any kind of standard in the classroom. As graduation approaches, teachers are expected to accept any kind of garbage assignments from seniors, because the graduation rate is an integral component of making AYP, so we don’t dare fail a senior without getting called in to “justify” the failing grade. Funny how we’re never asked to justify passing a student who missed 55+ days of school. I posted a sign in my classroom that says “NO EXTRA CREDIT. Those who do the work don’t need it; those who don’t do the work don’t deserve it.” Feel free to borrow :)

  4. Kathy

    Chris,

    I read the Green Woods Charter school admissions policy that you linked in your last post. You can’t possibly defend that admission’s policy. Having one open house at a suburban golf club makes no sense whatsoever. I lived near that school and what I think must be the golf club they use for the one day admissions. Even if you took public transportation the walk to the county club is a long walk. And why would the school have only one day to obtain an enrollment application? What if the parent was sick that day or had a work trip out of town or was hit by a car and was in the hospital? Why make all of this so hard unless you are intentionally trying to make it hard to limit enrollment. And why not have the admission forms online. Sounds like a great idea. And if I remember correctly the PSSA scores of Green Woods Charter are about the same as the scores of Shawmont and Cook-Wissahickon Schools, the two nearest public schools so why list that school as exemplary? I tutored kids from that school when it first opened. I did not see any special curriculum in reading. They were doing exactly what the Philly schools were doing, same with math. Maybe things have changed since then.

    I don’t see the changes being asked of Greenwoods Charter as lowering standards. It is simply expanding opportunity so everyone has a chance to get into the school. Nothing wrong with expanding opportunities. Charters are publicly funded schools. They are not private schools. They are open to everyone so make it possible for everyone to at least apply.

    Kathy

  5. Steve

    You need to pay attention to grade inflation at universities. It’s pretty much the same thing and I see no relationship to that and ‘liberal orthodoxy’ or ‘social justice’. It’s just students will do the minimum to get by if they can and especially if doing so only gets them a B while the best students still only get an A. We need to do a better job of differentiating between students at all level and that starts with failing students who don’t do their work.

    • Here is a very important question for everyone to ponder. Is the problem the “students” of today…or ” OURS”????? We ARE STILL USING THE PRUSSIAN MODEL OF EDUCATION FROM 3-400 YEARS AGO???? WHAT????? Chalk and Talk should be out!!!! Looking Clearly at Individual Student DIFFERENCES should be implemented EVERY DAY!!! Technology needs to be MANDATORY IN ALL CURRICULUM !!! Take a look in the Mirror all of you who say YOU KNOW IT ALL ABOUT KIDS, EDUCATION, USE BIG WORDS AND JUDGE EVERYONE… The students of today, ten years ago, even twenty or thirty years ago have been subject to GREEDY, OLD FASHIONED, POLITICAL, NON EDUCATORS WHO HAVE RUN THIS SYSTEM LIKE A BUSINESS. ( THIS INCLUDES PRIVATELY OWNED CHARTERS AS WELL AS PUBLIC SCHOOLS!!!!) NO ONE…YES I SAID IT…NO ONE HAS EVER ASKED THE TEACHERS IN THE CLASSROOMS HOW TO MAKE IT WORK…WHY???? BECAUSE MAYBE IF WE MADE IT WORK…THE $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ WOULDN’T BE THERE TO POCKET??? AND BUSINESS PEOPLE..LOVE $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
      And look at what we have gotten out of ALL of their( SYSTEM ADMINISTRATORS???) hard work????
      Kids who are still under the level they need to be, MORE Business people running Schools???, Parents even more fed up or frustrated and worried about their children’s Education and Future, Principals running schools and MAKING $$$$$$ and DECISIONS that are NOT EVEN REPRESENTATIVE of student needs!!! ( I can show you actual examples) And all we focus on is the poor students who don’t know what to do with themselves. Yes they want a good grade. BUT DOES ANYONE EVEN ACT LIKE THEY CARE ENOUGH TO MODEL FOR A GOOD STUDENT??? If you are in a school with 400 extra students, NOT ENOUGH SEATS TO SIT IN THE LUNCHROOM, SOME CLASSES HAVE NOT ENOUGH DESKS SO YOU STAND??? AND TEACHERS THINK IT’S OK??? SO DO PRINCIPALS???? STUDENTS ARE ALLOWED TO BRING A PHONE AND TEXT ALL DAY, FIGHT, WALK IN AND OUT OF CLASSES TO TALK TO SOMEONE…with NO CONSEQUENCES, NO STRUCTURE, Police who are scared of kids and continually make excuses for the kids, AND We Blame STUDENTS??????? Safe Schools Advocate??? The Records in September were doctored ( made better) from the ones in June…I have copies of those too!!! So there goes honesty about serious incidents and concern for human safety???
      Grow up PEOPLE….THIS IS THE VOICE OF REALITY SPEAKING..IF THE ADULTS CAN’T GET IT RIGHT…DON’T YOU DARE BLAME ANY STUDENT FOR EXPECTING SOMETHING….THEY ARE PROBABLY SCARED TO DEATH ABOUT THEIR FUTURE!!! THAT IS WHY THEY BEG FOR A GOOD GRADE in hopes that they can have something to rely on for success in the future as they SENSE that NO ONE IS SuPPORTING THeM….:-( I hear it from them myself…..

      I Have spoken to the SRC six times and the ONLY person who listened to my suggestions was DR. ARLENE ACKERMAN* !!! YES…the person who MANY OF YOU also chose to blame for everything. ( as if she had no support staff who worked against her behind the scenes) And the day she left…IT GOT SO MUCH BETTER RIGHT???? WRONG!!!!!!
      I just hope that Dr. Hite doesn’t get caught up with all of the backstabbing Administration at 440 like she did!!!
      She was the first and only one to come down on BAD , POOR MANAGING ADMINISTRATORS, LOOKED INTO WHOLE DEPARTMENTS WHO WERE WASTING MONEY AND ELIMINATED THEM, DISTRIBUTED AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK WHICH WAS NON EXISTANT FOR YEARS..AND ALSO INCLUDED AN ABSENCE POLICY WHICH COULD ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE!!!, UPGRADED CURRICULUM SUPPORTS, OPENED A TEACHER RESOURCE CENTER, STARTED THE PAR PROGRAM ( The idea was brainstormed by teachers in a Cabrini ADMIN. Class with an Ackerman recruit on her Leadership Team—NOT ANYONE ELSE). She respected Teachers..YOU CAN THINK OTHERWISE IF YOU WANT FOLKS!!
      ( If teachers didn’t reach out to her, then they have nothing to complain about…her secretary was always willing to forward emails, BUT WAS ASKED TO RETIRE…wonder why???????????)
      SO , In ending Here..All I have to say is YES the students are ENTITLED
      *TO ADULTS AROUND THEM WHO KNOW EDUCATION AND MAKE DECISIONS ACCORDING TO EDUCATIONAL KNOWLEDGE
      *TO ADULTS WHO HAVE THEIR BEST INTEREST AT HEART
      *TO ADULTS WHO THINK WITH THEIR HEARTS AND BRAINS NOT THEIR WALLETS
      *TO ADULTS WHO WILL BE REAL WITH THEM
      *TO ADULTS WHO WILL NOT ABANDON THEM IF THEY LEARN DIFFERENTLY,( K-12) AND WRITE 504’S & IEP’S FOR INDIVIDUALS..AND HAVE TEACHER/ PARENT/PROFESSIONAL INPUT NOT JUST SIGNATURES…:-(
      *TO ADULTS WHO WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEM AND THEIR EDUCATION AND RESPECT PARENTS NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE
      * TO ADULTS WHO WILL NOT ALLOW ANY FORM OF RACISM INTO ANY SCHOOLS NO MATTER HOW IT IS SHOWN…ESPECIALLY IN THE PHILADELPHIA SCHOOLS…
      * TO FEEL SPECIAL , NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE, WHERE THEY ARE FROM, WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE, WHAT THEY BELIEVE IN, WHATEVER THEIR FINANCIAL STATUS!!!
      I just hope that people will read this and know that this is coming from someone who has seen the BEST and the WORST of the SDP and it’s kids…and knows that if the citizenry of PHILADELPHIA doe not stand up for it’s Public Schools…They WILL BE LOST…and then NO ONE WILL BE ENTITLED TO ANYTHING..:-( Education215@gmail.com write me

  6. high school teacher

    In college, most, if not all courses consist of chalk and talk lectures. There is no group work, no differentiated instruction, and no hands-on assignments. We must prepare students for that and stop pandering to the lowest common denominator. Grade-begging is unacceptable. Dr. Ackerman did not support teachers… where were you when she castigated/penalized the bright young teacher who spoke out against the SDP? Ackerman forced high schools to use an ineffective elementary school remedial reading program that was insulting to our students. She knew nothing about secondary ed. Are you an educator? If so, surely you should know that “its” does not require an apostrophe unless “it’s” used as a contraction. And please lower your caps… shouting doesn’t get your point across any better.

    • SNE

      Thanks for your response. Yes, I’m an educator and founder of my own non profit where I educate even more children in the community. What do you do to make a difference since you are so judgmental of me???
      And I was the ONLY teacher who spoke up OPENLY at an SRC meeting on behalf of Hope Moffett and asked, not protested, not angry, that people think about the energy Hope had for her students and asked Dr. Ackerman to think about when she was a young teacher. I spoke of the fact that this was a lesson for these students to speak up for themselves, not to stand by and watch the world take advantage of them, like they are used to. She smiled, as she was used to my civil , problem solving approach. She nodded and right after the meeting, Hope Moffet was pardoned. You get more bees with honey, honey.
      Those horrible programs were not forced just by her, but by some of the others who conveniently are still with the district..LOL. The person who was responsible for the School Based Instructional Specialists never conveyed their messages about the programs to AA. He never relayed the data correctly. I know, I did my internship with a very qualified person who followed all protocol and showed me the data and what was said to the “higher ups”. BUT NO ONE DID ANYTHING. She ended up a sitting duck at that SRC meeting I remember. I attended when he was questioned about the data, and had nothing to say.
      HER HANDS WERE TIED…You don’t have to believe it…just look at what came after her. Was it any better???
      I bet you fail your kids if they don’t fit into your box, don’t you, because you don’t budge from Chalk and Talk..do you??? Prepare for College or else….So I bet you don’t accommodate the Special learners either huh??? cause they probably won’t make it to college?? Too bad for your classes…I bet the kids can’t wait to get out of there….. Thanks for correcting my words…I think my content was more important than the way I capitalized or spelled…which is how Good teachers look at kids…They don’t nit pick…they encourage expression in any way that they can.

      Go ahead and teach your way..and stifle all of the student’s creativity as they listen and copy notes like robots .

    • NOLA

      That bright young teacher is without a job in the SDP. He spoke out too much and did not get anywhere. So much much bright, energetic, forward-thinking people.

  7. Kathy

    high school teacher
    You stated:

    “Ackerman forced high schools to use an ineffective elementary school remedial reading program that was insulting to our students. ”

    What program did she have high school teachers use for reading remediation? I am curious.

    Kathy

  8. high school teacher

    The program is called Corrective Reading.

    For the record, SNE, I teach seniors and AP classes. And yes, most of the students are college-bound, because the SDP demands that we pressure all students to go. My students are quite happy with me as their teacher, in spite of my not letting them draw a picture or make up a creative dance in lieu of writing an essay. My students are actually learning how to write for college, where spelling and grammar is important and is reflected in the grade. Good teachers encourage expression, but unlike you, they strive for excellence and “nit pick” so their students learn to express themselves coherently (also unlike you.)

  9. Jonas Møller

    You’re constantly making references to “socialism” in education. Where i come from, we have that.

    It’s pretty simple, all schools (including universities and high schools) are free for absolutely everyone. Those who perform well, can get into the schools they want, regardless of how much money their parents have in their bank accounts.

    In a democratic socialist world, everyone starts out with the same (apart from their genes) and work at what they have, and if they work hard enough; they’ll go were they want to go.

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