This week I started a financial planning unit with my Algebra 1 students - we focused on what they "need" in life as opposed to what they "want." It was probably some of the most actively engaged my students have been. The next step will be to attribute dollar amounts to those items/services and plan a budget to accommodate them. I really wonder how this unit will unfold because it REQUIRES forethought - something my students are not always known for.
It then makes me think about the forethought required for a diploma. Not just one unit, one quarter, or one year - but FOUR YEARS of planning to make sure a student has learned something. At the end of my year I am now wondering and worrying about what a diploma will mean for my students and my school - do I offer the olive branch of "just passing" in order to guarantee my students will do some work? Or do I hold fast to my ideology and agree that it is impossible for a student to pass if s/he has received less than 158 percentage points over the last 3 quarters (add 100 to that number and divide by four to see the magic "passing number" for the year)?
I am a firm believer that a diploma should mean something. The pressure I feel (both internal and external) to get more kids to pass my classes - even if they do not understand the material - is horrendous in the short-term and the long-term. I just wish my School District would agree.