THIS MONTH several dozen of Calgary’s laziest students will get “smarten up or get out” warnings, under a system pioneered five years ago by school superintendent Robert Warren.
Since then, a few schools in five other provinces have followed suit, but none on Calgary's scale: 135 expulsions in five years.
How well is Calgary’s get-tough system working?
"It’s very effective,” says Central High principal Gordon Foster. Assistant school superintendent John James says. “We’ve had inquiries from all parts of the continent.”
Principals, teachers and school administrators cite these results:
^ Better discipline. “The students realize we mean
business,” says Foster.
* Higher grades. “Achievement scores have shot up an average of seven to eight percent in Grade 12 examinations,” says James. Crescent Heights High principal W. H. Cooper explains: “The rapid learners are getting more of the attention they deserve.” (Slow students who are doing their best aren't threatened or expelled.)
Better morale among teachers. “It gives them a definite lift to know they won’t have to cope unsuccessfully with the lazy learner,” says Western Canada High principal Ward Steckle.
Where are the expelled students now? A few are taking academic or vocational courses in private schools. Several-often with the help of school counselors—got jobs (boys as truck-drivers, clerks, oil-rig roughnecks; girls as clerks, waitresses, stenographers). But about 100 have gone back to public high schools —often the very schools that kicked them out. llxpelied for a term, they’re entitled to enroll later in the same grade.)
Cooper says at least half of those coming back to Crescent Heights raise grades from the 40s and 50s to the 70s and 80s.
How do expelled students and their parents feel? One 16-year-old expelled from Viscount Bennett High last December regards himself as the victim of “one teacher's whims.” Mrs. Osborne T, Olson claims her son. Leonard, “was made an example of" at Central High. He’s doing well now at Western Canada High, after a year in a private Saskatchewan school.
But most expelled students interviewed by Maclean’s said they thought the decisions against them had been fair. Many are happyrin their jobs, and those now back in school are anything but bitter. Back at Crescent Heights High after working several months, Ron Hunter. 16, says: “Hearing some of the older men in the warehouse grumbling about their jobs and wishing they had a better education made me see the light. Just the idea of having grade 12 means a lot to me now. When you come back, you appreciate every minute in the CLASSROOM.”
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