Students see pluses, minuses in probation

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It didn’t take long for students at Corliss, Fenger and Wells high schools to feel the impact of probation. There’s been a crackdown on discipline, coupled with a new emphasis on tests, according to four students who talked with Catalyst in early April. The students resent both developments, yet they concede that probation might do something good.

“They now have hall sweeps,” says Tina Busch, a senior at Corliss. “Which is: After the bell rings a song comes on, and after the song, if you’re not in class, you get swept. Police officers or security guards come pick you up and take you to the auditorium, and you can’t come back to school until your parents come to school to discuss why you got swept.”

At the end of the regular school day, students can attend an extra period so they can erase absences caused by getting swept, she adds.

Latisha Richardson, also a senior at Corliss, supports hall sweeps but says they clash with another school rule: No running in the halls. “Now I see students running real fast in the hallways trying to get to class so they don’t get swept.”

“I got something to say about students running to class,” says Christopher Young, a senior at Fenger, indignantly. “I figure, if you’re going to be put on record for a tardy, and that tardy is going to stay on your record throughout your life, why not run to class.”

All of the students also maintain that schools are dropping more students.

“They’re dropping kids from school every day,” says Andre Driver, a sophomore at Wells who will serve on the school’s local school council next year. “If you don’t want to go to school, and you’re 16 or 17, you’re outta there. If they catch you in the hall [after hall sweeps] more than three times, and you’re 16 or 17, they figure you don’t wanna go to school, so they’re dropping you.”

“I don’t think that’s positive,” says Tina. “I believe you shouldn’t drop a student, you should try to reform that student. I mean, why should you kick them out of school? That’s not going to solve the problem.”

Christopher, the most vocal in his dislike for the discipline crackdown, concedes there may be an up side. “The students that really want to learn, they go to class and it’s making it easier for them, because the people that don’t want to learn are getting kicked out.”

And Andre acknowledges: “Now, things seem to be running more smoothly. We haven’t had too many more people coming to school with blunts [marijuana] or guns or knives.”

The four students also report that more time is being spent on test preparation.

The three seniors in the group have some classes with juniors, so they got caught up in preparation for standardized achievement tests even though they don’t take them. Latisha and Tina say they were unprepared for a chemistry test because the class was doing testing drills instead of covering material in the textbook.

None of the students believe standardized tests are a good way to measure students or schools. “We had some kids do really well,” says Latisha. “And the ones that didn’t it’s not because they couldn’t have done well, it’s just that if they didn’t feel like taking the test, they just marked whatever they wanted to on it. And some teachers would look at what they were doing and say, ‘Well, you weren’t going to do anything anyway,’ and they’d just walk on. But since we’ve been put on probation, they’ve had to buckle down.”

Some students aren’t good at taking standardized tests, adds Christopher. “And the teachers get so that they don’t teach anything else.”

“All they [the teachers] do is lecture, from the beginning of class until the end of class,” complains Andre. “Its not presented in a fun way.”

Latisha says probation is good but she adds, “I think they’re trying to do too much, too fast, too late. It’s like they’re trying to change all the things now that they should’ve been trying to change years ago.”

“You can tell the teachers are getting tired now,” says Andre, drawing a chorus of “absolutelys” from his peers.

“It’s like now they [the teachers] are just throwing it at us,” adds Tina.

When asked to measure probation’s overall effect, the students just shrug. Finally, Tina says, “Only time will tell,” echoing the opinion of many adults.