Failure and punishment make a pretty good pair

When did punishment become such a bad thing? The Sharon Board of Education, which a few weeks ago was on its way to enacting a very tough policy to discourage F-level performance by its students, has apparently been talked into watering down the plan.
They're now ready to serve up such a thin gruel that one has to wonder why they're bothering.
The plan: Under a proposal first made by School Director Richard Mancino and fine-tuned by Superintendent Richard Rossi, kids who were failing a class would have to attend study sessions to bring up their grades to at least a D. Students who nevertheless received an F on their report cards would be barred from participating in sports, clubs or even attending school dances, games or plays.
We'll grant that the proposal to bar students who get an F from attending any school function was, as the board's lawyer described it, unenforceable. Perhaps that provision had to go.
But school administrators -- principals of the middle and high schools -- also suggested that an automatic one-week suspension from all activities for failing students be dropped too, on the grounds that it was "punitive." Heaven forbid that a school district punish a student for goofing off. And, really, isn't that what an F, in most cases, represents?
If a student truly can't do passing-level work in a subject, isn't it incumbent on the school to intercede, to develop an individual education plan for students who face specific challenges?
Either or: If that's so, then failure in a subject indicates one of two things. Either the school isn't doing the work it's there to do, or the student isn't.
In either case, it seems, punishment of the responsible party would be an appropriate response. We can see where that level of accountability might be troublesome to some administrators.
The Sharon Board of Education should either approve a policy with teeth in it or stop wasting its time. As to establishing after-school academic intervention programs at an estimated cost of $15,000, some might even wonder why that's necessary. Isn't each teacher responsible for providing each student with whatever additional help the student needs? On the other hand, $15,000 is a small price to pay if the sessions help the hundreds of students in middle and high school who get failing grades during a typical school year.
The Sharon Board of Education may or may not produce an "F" policy that has any value to the students or the community. But the debate has produced valuable and interesting insights into the differing views of the people who are running the school district when the subject is academic failure.

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