Grade Fixing – Fact or Fiction?

October 27, 2011

Report cards for the first reporting period of the academic year recently went home for parent review. The question is, were these grades a true reflection of student progress? A number of teachers have reported they were directly or subtly made to understand that “every student will do well.”

A teacher recently wrote ISR to say that after a student achieved 4 ‘Ds’ on a series of exams, she was instructed to alter her method of grading and count each ‘D’ as two points. On a scale of 1-10, the four ‘Ds’ added up to eight or 80%, which equaled a report card grade of ‘B.’

Another teacher reports that he gave his student a ‘C’ on the report card and later noticed the grade had been changed to an ‘A’. When he questioned the director he was told, “This is an honor student, and to help you save face we raised the grade to what this student would have earned if you were a better teacher.”

Altering kids’ grades to keep the paying customers (aka: parents) happy is certainly the exception and not the norm. But the practice may be far more prevalent than previously assumed. ISR recently received a letter from a teacher outlining how his school expected teachers to alter the grades of a few students on a special list, “the wealthy and/or powerful client list.” This teacher felt belittled and betrayed, but also extremely concerned for these same students naively applying, and being accepted to Western universities.

Have you personally been asked to alter grades? What’s your school’s policy? In the end, teachers may experience a conflict of conscience in the short-term, but ultimately it’s the students who suffer from this deception. Exposing schools that encourage grade fixing on ISR reviews is one step toward curbing this practice. What are YOUR thoughts and experiences with grade fixing?

Career Changers – Follow Your Heart, But Not to the Bottom of the Salary Scale

October 20, 2011

Posted by ISR Guest Blogger

In sour economies like the current one, teaching becomes a popular refuge for its high job stability and, especially among international schools, easy mobility. After a training program, laid-off workers can enter the profession in relatively short order, and certified teachers, who may have been working in other professions, can re-enter teaching when they see their prospects dry up elsewhere. The economy can even be the final spur that motivates people to change directions and act on a long-held desire to teach.

The trade-off is, of course, money. Would-be teachers considering a switch from a higher-paying profession balk, or at least should balk, at the idea of taking a $25,000 starting salary at a second-tier international school. Poor economy or not,  such numbers are insulting to any serious-minded professional. Recruiters will never fail to emphasize how much you can save given the cost of living in many countries. Still, some quick math, generally corroborated by reviewers on ISR, will show that the savings are rarely all that much when working at the bottom of the salary ladder.
So what can career changers or those returning to the profession after a long absence do to sell themselves? First, let’s consider the advantages older candidates bring to international teaching. Those in their 30s and 40s (hopefully) bring a greater reliability to their duties. It’s less likely that these will be the faculty members coming into class bleary-eyed after an all-night binger. Second, older candidates have probably already withstood significant job stress which can make them less likely to become “runners” when things don’t go as planned abroad. Most importantly, older candidates can bring related professional skills with them that school heads would be wise to note. For example:
Candidates with management experience often make great leaders at the department or administrative level. Those with athletic prowess can be inspiring coaches. Those coming from IT are likely to be far more agile in classroom technologies than the average instructor. Those who have experience in foreign languages, or with a specific foreign population,  should highlight how quickly they would adapt to X, Y or Z country or situation.
How much related skills are worth in real terms is anyone’s guess, and many school heads have blinders on to everyone but the most experienced candidates, but whatever added value you can communicate in your profile might give you a step up on what would otherwise be a very tall ladder. Career-changers and others,  ISR invites you to share your thoughts on this topic.

Recruiting Season Starts Now!

October 12, 2011

Every year, school directors give teachers a deadline by which to decided if they will return for another academic year or make the current year their last. And every recruiting season the decision-making deadline seems to be pushed earlier & earlier.

This season, ISS/Lisbon is slated for Nov 18th, followed by AASSA/Atlanta on Dec first.  ISS/Atlanta follows in quick succession on Dec 4th, with Search/Johannesburg on Dec ninth.  When we first viewed the ISS recruiting fair schedule we thought the list was incomplete. Their web site shows the last ISS fair of the season to be ISS/San Francisco on Feb thirteenth.

Last year, teachers were concerned because many schools were requiring them to submit their intentions to stay or leave early in the school year. It appears the recruiting organizations have followed suit, putting pressure on international educators to make a stay-or-go decision within the first month or two of school. How will this affect schools and teachers?

For educators entering international teaching for the first time the earlier dates could be advantageous. But, for teachers currently overseas & completing their present contract these dates could prove frustrating at best. As a result of competition between recruiters to be the “first” conference, we can see fairs possibly as early as Sept/Oct in the years to come. What is your opinion on this situation? Join us on this ISR Blog.

Do Meaningless Mission Statements = Poor Schools?

October 6, 2011

To our way of thinking, a school’s mission statement should contain measurable goals. After all, if you cannot measure progress towards a set of goals, there’s no way to prove whether or not they are being met. Schools with the poorest reviews on the ISR web site seem to expound the most lofty, unmeasurable goals. Read these actual International School mission statements, for example:

  • The Mission of ___ School is to provide high quality holistic education in an inspiring learning environment that maximizes the potential of each individual to become a responsible global citizen.
  • The American International School of ___ prepares its students to be responsible global citizens and inspires in each a passion for knowledge and lifelong learning. We are a nurturing and diverse community that instills respect for self and others, develops the whole child, and strives for academic excellence.
  • The goal of The ___ School is to liberate the joy of learning within every child and nurture them as citizens of the world. We believe that global education is the key to continued success.

What, if anything above, is quantifiable or measurable? Are goals being met? Maybe, or maybe not. Who really knows? And maybe no one in administration really cares! In fact, the reviews of these schools tell the real story beyond the mission statement.

In contrast to the statements above, here is a mission statement from a school with many strong, outstanding reviews:

  • ABC Academy challenges its students to academic excellence through the medium of a college preparatory curriculum and U.S. academic standards, with instruction in English language. ABC Academy values community service and responsible global citizenship and promotes the integral development of each student within a multicultural setting.

What has your experience been with school mission statements? With the ever growing number of “for profit” schools springing up, a school’s mission statement could be a good indicator of what you may be signing up for!