Nov. 14, 2013 -- A Florida principal agreed today with a mother who was angry that her son made the honor roll despite having a C and a D on his report card.
Principal Kim Anderson of Pasco Middle School in Dade City, Fla., was siding with Beth Tillack who was upset that her seventh grade son Douglas was on the honor roll and his report card came with a teacher's comment, "good job" and a smiley face.
The principal said that 45 percent to 50 percent of the school's students are on the honor roll. She said it was a "difficult situation" and that Beth Tillack was justified in questioning policies surrounding the school's standards and system of assessment.
"I do agree with her," said Anderson. "I feel it's important for students to progress by meeting standards. We measure them by standards, they know if they've met them or not. Sometimes grades don't always indicate that."
The Pasco Middle School honor roll system is based on a weighted grade point averages, meaning that the 3.16 average Douglas Tillack achieved overall for his four A's, a C and a D, just pushed him over the honors requirement line, which is set at 3.15.
Theoretically, children could get an F and still qualify for the honor roll, said Anderson, which is problematic when a child might not be motivated to perform like they should.
"Her son is a bright boy and can do the work. There are choices he's making," Anderson said. "He knows exactly what he can get away with. Maybe this is a wake-up call that there are higher expectations."
Beth Tillack told ABC News affiliate WFTS that when she saw the report card and the honor roll notice, "I immediately assumed it's a mistake. It was glaring in the fact that it said 'good job' and then there was a D."
Tillack said that after her complaint, the school reissued the card, replacing "good job" with "Work on civics. Ask for help."
"The bottom line is there's nothing honorable about making a D," said Tillack. "I was not happy, because how can I get my child to study for a test when he thinks he's done enough?"
Anderson said the teachers do not individually decide who makes the honor roll, but simply "go by the numbers."
"The notion that the school doesn't have the individual discretion to set standards is troubling," says Abby Schachter, author and mother of four who runs a popular blog. "Things have become so bureaucratized. Even if the standards are set at the district level, one would hope the schools would find a way to operate within that."
Schachter says the case is also symptomatic of the development of the "self- esteem movement," or the fact "You can't say something negative because their feelings will be hurt and they won't overcome a rejection or criticism."
"The teachers are not doing students any favors by falsely encouraging students," she said. "They shouldn't discourage them, but failing to let them know when they are underachieving is not promoting growth."
Anderson said she'll be asking teachers to review report cards more closely from now on to ensure progress is measured as accurately as possible.
"The buzz about this has caused us to look at it. I'm not sure if we'll change it, but we're looking at it," the principal said.