Lesson one: failure hurts

The Sharon City School Board is still grappling with its "No F" policy.
When proposed almost two years ago, the policy was straightforward enough: A pupil with even one failing grade would be barred from extracurricular athletics and other school activities.
Frankly, we were impressed. We have always thought that the first reason kids are in school is to learn. Going to school is a student's responsibility, playing games or participating in other noncurricular activities is a privilege.
Dissent: But after the board, acting on the recommendation of the superintendent, seemed ready to adopt the tough policy -- "tough" may be too strong a word, since a straight-D student would still be eligible -- some of the district's building administrators took issue with the proposal.
They said it was "punitive," as if there were something terribly wrong with punishing a student for failing to do passing work. Bear in mind that no student is surprised when he or she fails a course. Students know what their grades are, their parents should know what their grades are and there is ample opportunity for intervention.
We view sports and clubs and such as a reward for students who do their class work. It's not a matter of punishing them for not doing good work. It's a matter of not rewarding them for poor work.
The Sharon policy, which went from tough to squishy, is now going back to committee, where we can only hope that it regains some of its teeth.
School Director Dom Russo pushed to send the policy back to committee, saying he wouldn't support a policy that had been diluted to the point of meaninglessness.
Perhaps the school district can yet arrive at a policy that stresses to students the need to take their school work seriously.
Perhaps, too, the board will take a look at the attitudes that seem to prevail among building principals regarding what level of performance educators should be willing to accept from their students.
Policy issue: It is the job of the school board to set policy and that of the administrators to enforce that policy. It is appropriate for the administrators to speak up when they see a clearly dysfunctional policy evolving, and, indeed, their complaint that a provision in the draft proposal that would have barred failing students from attending after school functions such as plays or games was well taken.
That part of the policy was unenforceable and the board acknowledged that.
But the principals went too far when they lobbied the board to accept academic failure. No teacher, no principal, no school board member and no parent should look a failing student in the eye and say, "That's all right, just go out and play."

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