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Administrative White Cards

In the category of dumb moves by smart people, J.F. Kennedy High School, in La Palma, California, decided that one way to encourage student achievement was by color coding the student I.D.s based on the students' standardized test scores.  The highest students received black cards, the group below received gold cards, and the weakest students were given white cards.  Administration also gave students day planners that matched their student I.D. card color.

Students with black and gold cards earned special privileges and discounts that weren't given to the white card students, and white card students had to stand in a separate line during lunch.

Concerns for student privacy, of course, have arisen.  Students with white cards have been embarrassed and harassed and heavy-weights in educational psychology and motivation are appalled.  The principal said that the intention was not to reveal private, student information, but to recognize the school's high achievers, and to motivate other students to excel.

The California Department of Education pointed out that the policy was "inappropriate" and a violation of state law.

District officials said they were going to revisit the policy to determine if students' confidential information had been unintentionally released.

This looks like a pretty darned obvious case of intentionally released information to me.  I can't believe that they'll have to "revisit" the policy for long to notice that.

If I gave a thumbs-down award for a poor move in service of a good idea, this would be it.  Some decision makers in La Palma have earned their white cards.​



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 7th, 2011 12:43 pm (UTC)
This gets a WTF platinum card.
Oct. 7th, 2011 01:17 pm (UTC)
I assume that just a black card for the top 5% or 10% wouldn't have been problematic? Or would it have been?
Oct. 7th, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC)
Good question. We separate kids by achievement in various ways in a school anyway, like A.P. kids and varsity athletes, so I think a black card might not be a problem.
Oct. 7th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine "white card" students would be too happy to take out their planners - which would of course lead to them not recording important test dates and homework and perpetuating the cycle. However, I do like the idea of giving some advantage to kids with better grades. Rewards like being first in line for parking passes and other perks typically given for seniority would encourage some without labeling others.
Oct. 7th, 2011 02:17 pm (UTC)
I had a recent situation with one of my staff that falls into a similar "How in the world could you possibly think this would be okay?" category.

She hadn't been thoughtless--she actively thought about what she was doing and didn't see where it might be inappropriate. Just...didn't. Even after I explained the details of where the problem was (it was a similar "publicly revealing too much information about someone" sort of thing), I could tell she didn't really understand why it was wrong.

She won't do it again, but she was obviously frustrated with herself that she had made this error. She felt there was something wrong with her because she just didn't understand the situation the way almost everyone else would.

And I can't say I disagree with her. She acted from good intentions--she honestly thought it was information that needed to be posted where it was posted. But clearly her brain wiring is very different from most people's, such that even with an explanation, she didn't understand the problem.

We forget that humans aren't homogeneous in how they process data. Even when people seem to have enormous piles of experience and knowledge in common, there are often these surprise discontinuities where people have radically different perceptions of the world.
Oct. 7th, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC)
I thought the high-achieving students got enough reward by having access to more advanced classes, getting their names posted publicly on the honor lists, being allowed to join certain athletic and performing organizations that students with a low GPA couldn't join, and having more scholarships and colleges to choose from.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )