Friday, November 15, 2013

Honor Roll? Should We Care?

A Florida mom was really upset when she received notice from her son's middle school when he was named to the school's honor roll.


Because he received a C and a D and she didn't believe he deserved it. 

From Gawker:

"The bottom line is there is nothing honorable about making a D," the Pasco County, Florida mom told a local news station. "I was not happy, because how can I get my child to study for a test when he thinks he's done enough."

In addition to the D, Douglas also got three A's and a C, giving him a GPA of 3.16 — more than enough to be counted among the school's best and brightest.

But thanks to his mom, the Pasco County schools superintendent has announced that the honor roll policy will be changed to allow only students with all A's or A's and B's to be considered for inclusion.

"It makes my job at home so difficult," Tillack said of the current policy.

What does your school do (or not)?  When my older son was at Eckstein, no honor roll because "it hurts the other kids' feelings."  It made a comeback when my younger son was there.  

I don't think they did it at either high school they attended (but there was the Honor Society).

I think in some ways having an honor roll DOES matter because (1) school is about academics and (2) we celebrate other achievements at out schools, why not academics as well?



Lynn said...

I am anti-honor roll myself. I have often wondered how schools get away with posting a list of students whose grades meet certain criteria. An honor roll by it's nature announces that every other student's grades don't meet those criteria.

Does a school have the right to release this infromation on every student? Doesn't this require parental authorization?

Anonymous said...
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MomAnon said...

Gawker link didn't work for me, but here it is for someone else.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So Lynn, why announce any student achievements at all?

But good question on whether parents should be asked if they want this posted. It's unclear for the story if the parent just got a notice or it was up at the school.

Anonymous said...

I am pro Honor roll and like to see the achievement honored. I actually think schoolwork is not and shouldn't generally be so secret-it is what they are all doing there, often together (as opposed to disciplinary records, which I think should be behind lock and key). I think honor roll is a decent motivator for lots of kids.


Anonymous said...
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Lynn said...

Here's the difference. If the orchestra at Eckstein wins an award, announcing that doesn't give anyone information about the musical talents of any other student at Eckstein. If 20 students at Eckstein receive straight A's on their report cards and you announce their names, you're releasing a piece of information about the grades of every other student at Eckstein.

It's probably relevant that I'm not a fan of report cards. I think labeling a child as an A student or a C student cheapens the educational experience. I want my children to be excited about learning. I don't want their motivation to be getting enough points on an assignment to maintain a particular grade in the class.

I want the report card to tell me if my child has mastered the material covered in a class. I want to know if he was helpful and kind to his classmates, and actively participated in discussions. Those are the signs of a successful school experience (for both student and teacher.)

Maje said...

If I remember high school correctly, the students who made it on the honor roll were fairly known to the other students. Perhaps the parents felt that personal information was being divulged, but the students knew who the honor roll kids were whether or not the list was announced.

Though times are a bit different now because people seem very cautious about the idea of a school releasing any information about a student.

Anonymous said...

My kid was very upset when she first saw her name on the honor roll. She asked the school counselor not to publish her name on the honor role ever again.

A research project that she did introduced her to many studies about how subjective grading is not just around gender & race but also class, affect, disabilities and even the color of your pen. That just made her more disillusioned.

She does find grades demotivating. The assumption that she is a performing monkey who must be bribed instead of a motivated learner, makes her feel that the system is very disrespectful of students & is not really about learning.

I'm with Lynn on this one.

-HS Parent

Patrick said...

Do the musicians and drama students take bows after a performance? Does everyone know who's on the sports teams who is playing well?

Out of all the ways student data is misused, honor roll is for me the least worrying. Sure, families should have the chance to opt out before they're posted. Maybe they could post the names of those students who are willing to be named, and add how many anonymous students there are?

I do like to see academic success honored.

Eric B said...

I'm OK with the honor roll, but I'd like to see the bar set high enough that you can't get there with a C and a D. That will reduce the total number of students on the honor roll.

My high school posted honor roll along with the GPA next to each student's name. Students posted were generally proud of the achievement.

Lynn said...


Children can choose not to participate in music, theatre and sports. Students do not have the ability to opt out of receiving grades, and if they're a hard-working C student, they don't have the ability to keep the school from announcing to everyone that they are not an A student.

I'm saying the whole honor roll thing is harmful to the children on the list and to the children who aren't on the list.

mirmac1 said...

On a personal partner and I are very different. Let's say in high school he was a "stoner" while I was the opposite. Nevertheless, he likes to tell our daughter that, in 3rd grade in parochial school, he was on the honor roll! I would never think to take that away from him. I pretty much beat him up on everything else since then... : )

Anonymous said...

Hi Mirmac,
I think that is sweet that your partner is motivating your 3rd grader with his honor roll status. I am very sure it helps her to know that trying hard in school and applying herself to the tasks is going to be something that her dad will be proud of.

Anonymous said...

This is such an interesting question. I will say that as a parent of a child with stellar academic skills and mediocre sports skills, it has been frustrating to see the sports achievements of her sporty (less academic) friends made very publicly known, and the subject of open conversation among kids and adults alike, and yet the fact that a child (mine) works hard and achieves high grades, high achievement test scores, etc, is supposed to be kept private and never discussed among kids or adults. It's a little frustrating that my child has to keep her achievements private (so no one but family knows or can congratulate her) while the fastest swimmer on the team has her times posted publicly for everyone to see (and everyone congratulates her).


Anonymous said...

No, we should not care. Let's talk about the Philippines you think those kids or their parents are worried about the honor roll?? Get real in the world, people!! Me me me 'tudes all over this thing.


lowell parent said...

Seriously Philippians disaster, what about all the suffering in the world too. Why are you even here reading the blog when you should be doing something for them.
Of course we should allow for an honor roll, only make it demanding academically. The kids that have worked hard should be acknowledged for their efforts, just like in th real world. I wonder how many kids in an average size school make it?

Anonymous said...

I think that the football players should have to keep their helmets on at all time so know one can see their faces. The basketball team should wear Halloween masks so no one knows who is good at basketball. Actors in the school play should wear bags on their heads so we don't know who they are.

Maybe we should extrapolate that to adult life. Government leaders should be forced to remain anonymous. Sports stars should remain anonymous. Artists should not be allowed to sign their work. Authors shouldn't have their names on the covers of their books. Heaven forbid that we hurt people's feelings by recognizing others for superior performance.

The primary purpose of school is academics, and recognizing and rewarding academic achievement is excellent feedback to students. It's also good training for life.

I'm all for the honor roll.

Get real

Anonymous said...

Seriously, this sums up Seattle's crazy uber PC attitude. Yes, there should be honor rolls. If your kid has struggled to make a C, that is on you to celebrate that. That will be more meaningful anyway. But you'd be doing that same kid a disservice if you didn't acknowledge those other kids making As, whether it is easy for them or not. It's not awarded on effort. Don't overthink everything people. Protect feelings in elementary school, but let reality sink in by high school. Employers are not going hire an accountant who struggles in math because "they tried really hard". Be a good parent - celebrate your own kids' acheivements and steer them toward their own path. Don't diminish other kids' achievements because they are not your own kids. Things like select sports, music and honor rolls have their place. No wonder we have parents who are trying to go to job interviews with their kids - they are not living in reality.
-get real

Anonymous said...

The only question is: are we teaching our students for real life or we want to keep them in a safe and well rounded bubble as far as we can?
If the answer is the first than I have to agree with Get Real. Outstanding academic achievement deserves loud applause from the community the same way than outstanding sport achievement.
HIMS mom

Anonymous said...

whoops, didn't mean to steal your moniker Get Real. Above post is me. I'll be:
Realist Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lynn, there are individual music awards given at competitions. So yes, individuals get singled out.

And most kids know who's athletic, who excels in the classroom, who's musical, who's funny, etc.

I'm still waiting to hear why announcing who made the football team, scored the touchdown and the record for the team doesn't hurt other kids just as apparently learning that some kids get As and Bs does.

Either all students who achieve in an area get recognized or none. The school newspaper would be a lot less lively for this news.

eriktanen said...

I agree with get real in that too many parents in seattle are way over protective and not wanting there kids to face the realities of the world. We need to give our kids the tools to be ok with failure ( and learn from it) and not sugar coat everything, Not everything our kids do is ok.

Lynn said...


Because students who are not going to make the football team, score the winning touchdown, or win individual music awards can choose not to compete in those areas. Students are required to attend school and I don't think it should be a competitive environment. I don't believe it creates an overall positive school climate.

We might just continue to disagree on this one.

Michael Rice said...

I have to say that I learned way more from my failures then I ever learned from success. My parents were there to support and guide me, but the older I got, the more leeway they gave me to make my own decisions. They were confident enough that they did their jobs as parents that I would (mostly) make good decisions. When I made a bad decision or I failed in something, I learned a lot and what not to do in the future.

Stop coddling your children, trust that you have done a good job raising them and let them experience some hardship and struggle. It will prepare them for being an adult.

Anonymous said...

Lynn et al, Michael Gurian believes that the decrease in academic competition in schools is one of the myriad reasons that boys are struggling in schools these days, overall and definitely compared to girls.

As the father of two boys and an avid believer in the work of the Gurian Institute, it is my opinion that things like the honor roll can be done in a healthy way and keep boys better engaged in school.

--- bringing it

Anonymous said...

Who needs honor roll in SPS when you have Spectrum and APP labels to identify the smart kids. Getting an A for effort is like " most spirit" on a baseball ream. Natural ability counts for a lot in music, school, and sports and is what most people look up to. Having talent or brain power is enough of a gift in and of itself. Awards should probably go to students who volunteer outside school with the poor, homeless and disabled, real difference makers.


Lynn said...

bringing it,

So what affect does increased academic competition have on boys like mine (not competitive) and girls?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Abe, you are half right and half wrong. Many people DO have natural gifts in academics or sports or music. BUT, it takes discipline and hard work to really excel. Michael Jordan had a gift but he worked very, very hard to hone those.

Many bright kids don't excel because they never have had to work hard and then, when they do have to work harder, they don't have the skills.

Anonymous said...

Jordan and any professional athlete of course work super hard, but they are so superior physically as to be considered freaks of nature. I find giving awards for effort just reinforces ability differences. The genius can make honor roll half asleep while the average kid works his butt off to still not make it. Rewarding innate ability is something we can do for adult athletes and Nobel winners, but not kids.

Anonymous said...


What "innate ability" enabled Nelson Mandela to endure years of imprisonment fighting for civil rights in South Africa?

I think hard work and drive had something to do with it.

I think he deserved the Nobel Prize even though giving it to him reminds me that I probably am not as good as him.

Get real

Anonymous said...

A better story for me would be on this Sunday's NYT

It's a complicated story that dares you to think how you define success and honor.


Anonymous said...

Lynn, one effect of increased academic competition on non-competitive boys and girls is more engaged competitive boys are less disruptive in the classroom and more engaged in active learning. Having these boys less disruptive and more engaged has a significant benefit on the classroom culture and thus all students.

On a related note, and I say this not knowing you or your son, how do you know your son isn't competitive? Have you given covert and overt messages in your home that competition is bad? Could your son have internalized such messages? Brain research on boys would indicate that most crave healthy competition in some form.

--- bringing it

Lynn said...


I don't think we have taught our children that competition is a bad thing. We just haven't expressed any interest in it. We are more in the mode of how can you improve - rather than how can you do better than someone else.

If the brain research shows that most boys crave healthy competition - maybe mine are just the exceptions. (I have more than one.) They are not competitive between themselves either.

Lynn said...

For anyone still thinking about this, here are the blog posts of a Chimacum, WA middle school teacher on grades and homework. (Another favorite topic.)

Anonymous said...

I think political talent and it's qualities of perseverance, bravery, confidence and charisma are largely innate.