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Monday, June 2, 2014

Grade Inflation (A Story About Transition)

From Autism After 16

By Julie van der Poel
May 26, 2014

Cameron is about to graduate from high school. I have to let that sink in for just a bit … In a few short weeks, Cameron will receive a high school diploma. Hip Hip Hooray … right? Why don’t I feel like celebrating?

I know I need to get a party invitation ready to email to the masses, but for some reason, I’m not quite excited enough about the event to start the planning process. I was on a photo-sharing website the other day, and saw ads for graduation announcement photo cards. Crap. That would’ve been a good idea to send out. I guess it’s not too late. Why didn’t I think about this before now?

Why am I so reluctant to embrace this milestone event?

Cameron has been accepted into his first choice of postsecondary programs, he will be living away from home come September, and he is well on his way towards the next phase in life. Yet, it’s not the melancholy of sending my firstborn off to “college” that has me reluctant to celebrate his high school commencement. I guess I feel that Cameron’s graduation isn’t really a true representation of achievement.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m not proud of Cameron. He is an amazing young man with great determination to do what it takes to achieve his dream of owning a pizza restaurant one day. But has his education, which earned him a diploma, been sufficient?

I recently had dinner with a group of moms from Cameron’s school and the topic of grades came up. It was generally agreed that the grading system at the school was meaningless. Most students receive A’s across the board, and therefore grades can’t possibly be representative of ability. But if your kid comes home with straight A’s, is it something to complain about?

Deep down, I realize that it is a complaint-worthy offense, but I never raised the issue. But now, because I never raised the issue, I’m left with nothing but standardized test scores as the representation of Cameron’s strengths and deficits. No matter how thorough and extensive, testing can never be a true representation of a student’s abilities in a classroom. So now what do I do?

"...I vow to stay on my toes and look for measurable improvements in areas that need improvement. Regardless of what the program reports happens in the classroom, if I don’t see improvement at home, it’s not an improvement."

As Cameron begins his postsecondary programing this fall, I vow to stay on my toes and look for measurable improvements in areas that need improvement. Regardless of what the program reports happens in the classroom, if I don’t see improvement at home, it’s not an improvement. It will have to be a vigilant effort on my part, because when someone tells me my kid is doing well, I tend to readily agree with them.

However, there are certain things about Cameron that will get in the way of his employability. He needs help formulating strategies to overcome these hurdles, aside from mom’s constant nagging. When I see these types of improvements happening with Cameron, I’m sure then I’ll feel like celebrating.

As for the upcoming graduation celebration, I suppose I can look at it as celebrating the things to come.

About the Author

Julie van der Poel is the mother of a teenage son with ASD. When not writing for AA16, she focuses her energy on education issues for her two children.


NESCA Transition Services

Transition is the process, ideally beginning at age 14 if not sooner and extending through high school graduation and beyond, by which an adolescent or young adult masters the life skills necessary to function independently in post-secondary school or the workplace. NESCA offers complete transition assessment (including testing and community-based observation), planning and consultation services, coordinated by Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS.

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