Father Bill speaks

Bill Packard: 'If your school got a C or a D or, God forbid, an F, get over it'

Mon, 05/06/2013 - 10:45am

For as long as I can remember, kids have gotten grades in schools. The kids who did well and worked hard thought the grades were fair. The kids who struggled and the kids who didn’t put much effort in thought the grades weren’t fair. Some kids didn’t test well. Some kids turned in correct work, but it was late. Some kids did well when they were in school, but they were also absent a lot so they missed some important stuff. The circumstances go on and on.

The reaction of the education community to the recent grading of schools is incredible to me. The very same system that they have used for years to decide who is good and who is bad has been used on them and they don’t like it. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for schools in Maine to seriously look at themselves and see what they can do to be better. Just make it their goal. I don’t think the scores correspond to money spent. Parental involvement is probably a huge factor. Good teachers can do little with students whose parents don’t value education. But there’s got to be more and I think it’s attitude.

Often when I’m working with small business owners they will lament the available workforce with something like “There’s no good employees out there.” If they believe that, they are right. There are lots of good employees and a few that are not that good. I was talking with a manager in a company that owns convenience stores about the quality of help. He acknowledged the challenges, but used the standard explanations or excuses. They are settling for what they get, not setting a higher standard and going through the challenges involved in meeting those standards.

I think it’s the same with the schools. They immediately are making excuses for their grades. If their students did that, it would fall on deaf ears. Our kids don’t get breakfast. Our kids parents don’t value education as much as they should. Our kids don’t test well. Reading and math should not be combined. Reading and math don’t take into consideration phys. Ed or music or all the other things we offer that make us a good school.

So I think schools should set their own standards and goals. It doesn’t cost a penny more to set a high goal than it does to set a mediocre goal. It doesn’t cost a penny more to set a fantastic goal than it does to set a high goal. When you set a goal and work at it, you usually reach it. Instead of reacting with outrage at your grade, why not go immediately to work to improve your grade? Talk to the schools with the good grades and see what they’re doing that you could do to achieve better results. Find out what your students think would make school better. Just do the work.

I have the upmost respect for teachers. This is not about teachers and their ability, it’s about how the administrations feel about what they do. Many do the best they can with what they have to work with. Others, set higher goals, strive for excellence and do all they can every day to reach that goal.

Kids who graduate high school with a C average or even a D average get good jobs. Some go on to college and lead very successful lives. Kids who get Fs either take longer to graduate or choose to leave school. In either case, they are a minority and if schools do all they can for them, that’s all they can do.

So, if your school got a C or a D or, God forbid, an F, get over it. Focus your energies on what you can do to be better. There will be more terrible news tomorrow and the day after that. People will forget about the scores unless you keep bringing up how unfair they are. Every time you bring up your score, it draws attention to your grade and the fact that you don’t think it’s fair. The more you talk about and not take positive action to change it, the more I think the score is accurate.


Bill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of BPackard.com.  He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant. 


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