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No 'F' Grades for Youngsters

April 06, 1986

Those who are criticizing Los Angeles school board member Jackie Goldberg's plan to abolish the "F" grade for youngsters through the second grade (Letters, March 23) are demonstrating the very reasons it is essential to do it. They are assuming, as far too many parents and teachers assume, that the "F" is a motivator for improved performance. At the kindergarten or primary level? Never!

My wife motivates her kindergarten children with happy faces, facial expressions, a barrage of encouraging remarks, and a great deal of communication with parents--which is also encouraging but tempered with helpful suggestions.

Former school board president Howard Miller implied in his letter that children now would not develop the skills that would bring them success. Does he not know that success breeds success and failure breeds failure? Good teachers everywhere gear assignments to the children's abilities. Surely he doesn't expect an "F" to be given to the slow maturing child who cannot, because of delayed development, compete with the other children at this time.

Some of the writers insinuated that Goldberg's plan would virtually eliminate evaluation. Again, good teachers leave their desks and oversee a great deal of the work while it is in the process of being done. If it is done poorly (for that particular child) he may have to stay in to do it, it may become homework, he may have to start over, but it's because he needs help, not because it's "F" work. "F" work, you see, is eventually internalized and the child believes he is an "F" child. His self-concept receives another blow, and his future work will reflect it.

Nobody is talking about misleading either the parents or the children. Nobody is talking about withholding pertinent information. But many children who find tasks difficult are handicapped because the skills formerly taught were not mastered. In such cases the child is not to blame for the "F," and should not receive one. The teacher, however, must change the level of instruction for that individual.

Jeffrey Leiker wrote than an "N" does not have the same negative connotation as an "F". He's right, and that's a great reason to change to it.

Frankly, I am surprised that such a progressive and child-centered suggestion did not come from the school administration instead of the board; school people should have pushed for it years ago. Because they did not, I applaud you, Jackie Goldberg, and I know the children will profit emotionally and academically from this change. Continue to lead!

VERLE KREHBIEL

Los Angeles

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