Recycling Relearners needs Rethinking

Recycling Relearners needs Rethinking


Failing students get recycled into their failed classes with little motivation to change the behavior that sent them back into those classes. However, this issue doesn’t sit so squarely on the shoulders of those failing students, but on the cumulative neglect of all involved with placing failing students back into the same class, often with the same teacher, just one semester or two months after they failed.

The issue of failing students getting recycled has numerous effects on the classroom ecosystem. Some of these impacts include a decreased sense of care and the thinning of teachers’ resources – the most important of which is time. All of which could be avoided if more thought were put into how counselors and schedules are meant to help or deal with failing students.

One of the most significant problems with simply recycling these kids is that whatever was hindering them a mere two months prior most likely has not resolved itself. A student has not grown more mature, learned to care, or learned to be a good student in this time. 

The possible hindrances that affect student education are numerous, but not impossible to work through – but without some intervention, summer school, tutoring, more options for credit recovery, or a simple meeting or weekly check-ins with counselors is more effective in ensuring a students success, than simply sending them back onto the conveyor belt to fail again. 

In addition, poor behavior or a lack of care and effort is not only a primary cause for student failure, but also stretches the resources teachers can provide for not only that student but all students in a class.

If a student chooses not to turn in an essay in their English class or chooses not to take a test in IM2 seriously, they are likely to fail. Telling a student they are not going to graduate most times isn’t enough; graduation isn’t a large enough carrot. If they are then recycled into those classes with no sort of intervention, they are even more likely to repeat history. They are wasting both the student’s time and the teacher’s time. 

Teachers are a resource for all students, but chiefly among them, teachers are a resource for students who are falling behind, so to expect a teacher to chase a student who is actively choosing not to care is unrealistic and only puts kids who are trying and not succeeding, kids on the edge of a C and D a greater chance to fall further behind.

However, much of this is just the case for the student-to-teacher relationship. But on top of this, the impact a student perceived as not caring has on a classroom environment is just as impactful. 

Classrooms often foster a particular environment, sometimes, this environment is set by the teacher, but usually, it is set by the students. For example, if a class is allowed to constantly joke around yet still work hard, the course may be perceived as easy, fun, and a positive educational experience. 

But if a class has even a few students who are constantly undermining the teacher, not doing work, and being disruptive, the students in this class will often just follow the leader, leading to an environment more harmful to the educational experience of those students. 

These classes condition students to hate a subject or a teacher when it was just the interactions that students had  in the course causing this unearned hate. 

Regardless, the impacts of reintroducing students who lack care, often those who fail, may lead to an environment that wastes teacher resources and actively harms the rest of the students in the class.

That being said, every subject is impacted differently by recycled failing students. The impact for a student going from World History as a sophomore to US History as a junior is pretty minimal, and these classes can be repeated side by side without impacting the performance of one another. 

However, if that sophomore fails English 10 and must retake that class alongside English 11 as a junior, they are, objectively, at a disadvantage because they are forced to move up a degree of difficulty before having mastered the skills offered in the previous class. 

This issue is particularly unique to the English courses as they are graduation requirements that don’t have the same prerequisites as, say, IM1 and IM2, which must be completed one at a time to be able to move up to the next class. 

The misplacement of failing students is a nuanced issue and does not have a single band-aid solution. However, steps need to be taken to maintain the education of first-time learners and ensure the success of relearners.

RHS offers summer school and credit recovery, but these options are typically reserved to students who fail during their Spring semester because oftentimes students that fail in the fall are immediately recycled into the same class in the spring. However, these options can leave the Fall semester’s failing students in the dust, waiting to roll the dice on the conveyor belt. 

That being said, it could be as simple as meeting with their counselor weekly to keep them on track or more opportunities for Tiger tutoring. 

But at the end of the day, there is no cure for a bad attitude.