A “Nuti” Policy, or Weeding Out the Slackers?

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Matthew Nuti is your typical well-rounded student. He’s on the junior varsity football team, active on the yearbook staff, and a dynamic influence on the Model United Nations team at his school. However, his school is the not-so-average Thomas Jefferson High School (TJHS), in Fairfax County, Va. At this magnet science and technology school, students need to have top grades and stellar test scores to even get in. No wonder it’s ranked the #1 public school by the U.S. News and World Report. Now it has a new rule: get lower than a 3.0 GPA, and you are expelled.

Nuti, with a 2.8 GPA, was one of five students expelled this past year. He expressed his frustration on ABC and in the Washington Post. Many readers have already weighed in with mixed feelings. Some say a GPA cutoff for a public school is out of line. Still, others agree with the school, pointing out the classes he did poorly in were core academic subjects. There is a line of students waiting to take his place, says Washington-area student Alexa Williams: “Anything less than academic success should mean not being asked back.”

Should public schools be open to all and provide remediation to those students who need it? Are schools with enrollment policies like TJHS’s changing public education for the better or worse?

16 COMMENTS

  1. I think this is wonderful. As it stands, our public school have no way to give real consequences. I believe there ought to be a way to “save yourself” thru a summer school program, that if you fail…out you go. There are plenty of schools for kids who do not have the ability to keep up with these kids or who don’t want to apply themselves. Public education is a privilege to be earned, not a right to be taken for granted.

  2. This students knew what the conequencse where for letting his GPA drop. I have the same feeling as Crystal Carson. He should be put on probation for one semester to pull the GPA up. Different thing could have occurred during the year that could have affected his proformance. After that grace peroid with not improvement he should be replaced with someone with a high GPA.

  3. I have mixed feelings on this matter. Yes, I think it is always great to see the success at this school, but it makes me wonder who the school is there for and what they are there for? I just believe in doing all that I can for every student in order to see them succeed. What happens to Matthew after being kicked out? It’s almost like telling him that he isn’t smart, or good enough. What does that teach him? Yes, he knew the consequences from the beginning, but for some students, they can work as hard as they can and just come up a little short than our expectations. It is in those moments that we as teachers should help. I thought that “public” schools are for the public and should be there to teach those who attend. I just can’t imagine turning to one of my low achieving students and telling them that they are kicked out because they were not at the level of the rest of the class. We should have high expectations for our students, but not to the point of tearing down a young life.

  4. If that policy had been applied to me during my high school years, I would have been expelled. I was being sexually and emotionally abused by my father and could not juggle emotional trauma and school life. I got by with a 2.8 GPA. I am glad to have earned my AAS at age 18. You see, when I was 14, I was in college.
    We are not all super achievers. It’s not fair to make everyone in public school try to struggle for a uniform ideal.
    Thank goodness college offers remedial classes so that students can relearn what they missed in high school. By the way, when I was in college, my classmates in the remedial classes were mostly above 30 years old.
    Why punish children? Perhaps we should find a different way? Evaluate each situation, each student, not make a sweeping generalization that all “slackers” be kicked out… This attitude is not a compassionate one. As adults aren’t we supposed to teach kids by example? We aren’t all the same…

  5. When I first heard about this blog my feelings revolved around the school being too harsh and critical on these students. It wasn’t until I came and read this article personally that I realized the school was a magnet school. This one piece of information changed my opinion and I will explain why. Since magnet schools (which mimic the European styles of schools) are there for students with specific interests or gifts, it is only fair to each and every student if someone who is not following the rules is expelled. It is a priviliedge to get into a magnet school, and when you enter a magnet school their are rules and guidelines placed in front of you, which you sign stating that you will abide by those rules and guidelines. Those five students obviously did not abide by the guidlines they signed to and therefore they were asked to leave. Now, if they reapplied the following year for entrance and were denied solely on the basis of their grades the previous year, then I would consider that unfair treatment.

  6. For those who thought there should be a grace period: there is. If your GPA is in danger, your counselor starts asking questions; unless it’s some sort of fluke, you go into an intervention phase. Read the article! THIRTY-FOUR STUDENTS were in intervention. Twenty-nine of them stopped slacking and pulled their GPAs above 3.0; Mr. Nuti was not one of them because apparently he “thought it wasn’t serious”. Does that sound like the kind of student that would do well in a rigorous academic environment?

  7. Matthew Nuti was given the time, resources, and consequences. He chose to pursue extra curricular activities. Now I understand he is suing. He has put self above all.

  8. We are not talking about a neighborhood high school. This is a highly competitive magnet school. The rules are created up front. I understand that circumstances may prevent a student from meeting those needs, and maybe a probation period is warranted–but not for an entire semester. We don’t give our students in sports that much time to meet eligibility. If this wasn’t a highly competitive magnet school this wouldn’t be an issue. Illinois has a Math and Science Academy and there are hoops to jump through there as well. It is a given that some make it and some do not. All should be given the opportunity, but if they can’t meet the requirements, then they should be in a regular high school and could be in their honors or accelerated classes.

  9. I totally agree with the school. Students elect to attend this very competitive school. Therefore, they and their parents are very clear on expectations. The “complain or sue if I don’t get my way” mentality has ruined public education in this country. It is the reason why many teachers fear setting high standards in the classroom. I have observed this same sad situation in AP and Honors level courses, where students think it is “too hard” so the teacher should lower expectations. No– seek placement in an appropriate level of the course. I commend the adminstration at TJHS for having the guts to take a stand for excellence.

  10. When you apply to and accept enrollment in a high school specialty center, you accept the rules for remaining in the program. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that they maintain an adequate GPA if they expect to remain. Many students compete for the limited number of seats in these programs. Once in the program students need to realize the work has just begun.

  11. Expulsion seems a bit harsh, but the student knew the rules when he applied for and accepted placement at this most prestigious high school. Sounds like football may have taken precedence over academics, and he now has to live with that choice. Once the school starts making exceptions, its status as a premier institution is diminished. Standards actually do matter and should not be compromised. We need to raise expectations for all students, prompting them to work hard rather than just testing them to death and spending millions on remediation programs. However, one size does not fit all, and we need to offer more options, such as vo-tech in middle school. College is not for everyone, nor should it be.

  12. I have not seen the full article, but I am curious as to where the expulsion puts this student. I’m not suggesting that Mr. Nuti is without faults, but seriously, he gets expelled for a 2.8 GPA? In the era of NCLB, is this really the right battle to fight?

  13. I think the problem is with the highly-charged word used in the original post — “expelled.” That’s simply not what happened. The student was transfered to a different school, and his coveted place in the magnet school was given to another student who was working at the required level. If we want to have special schools for high-achieving students (certainly a question to be discussed, but not relevant here), don’t we have to let such schools remove students who don’t achieve highly?

  14. The 3.0 rule was not in place when Matthew Nuti applied for and was accepted to the school. It’s a new rule, not announced until he’d already been there a year and had already been invited back. As a sophomore he was taking French 3 and precalculus: yes, core subjects to be getting less than A in, but a year or two ahead of what most 2nd-year high school students take.
    When Matthew applied to this magnet school, they had a formula in place where the higher your grades were, the lower your entrance exam could be, and vice-versa. His entrance exam was extremely high, so it was acceptable at that point that his middle school grades were average. It was probably thought he needed more of a challenge to be truly engaged.
    Also, it’s not as if expelling Matt made room for another student. You’re accepted that first year or not at all, and his space won’t be filled.
    Being kicked out of your school is being expelled, there’s really nothing else to call it to capture the enormity of being wrenched away from your tribe.
    Extracurriculars are required at this school, not optional. And of course, grades don’t always reflect what you’ve retained from your courses. I had friends tutoring me (which I really needed) in high school math whose math SATs turned out later to be far lower than mine. I might have struggled for a “C” on any given quiz, but the information from the lessons of the prior week I totally owned.

  15. I went to this school, a couple of decades ago, and I am absolutely appalled by this new rule.
    High achieving high school students everywhere are putting themselves under tremendous pressure these days. The importance of an over-full resume, in addition to a perfect academic record, make their years more about attainment than learning. This has always been a problem, but it has gotten even worse. And the students at this schools have been known to break down in tears simply for getting a B on a single test. What happens when there is a threat of being kicked out for getting too many C’s?
    At their best, these most elite of high schools (e.g. Stuyvessant, THJSST) do everything they can do LOWER students’ stress level. They don’t do class rank, for example. This allows these already-competitive and highly accomplished kids — they are KIDS, after all — a chance to grow and mature. A chance to help each other, even to push each other to learn.
    But a policy like this does nothing for students. Instead, it helps the school to keep it college acceptance rates at the most competitive schools highest. It absolves the school of responsibility for meeting the needs of its own students.
    And that has always been the core difference between the moral mission of the public schools and that of private schools. Public schools don’t get to “counsel students out.” Public schools cannot kick students out for performance.
    But let’s be clear here, ever since the beginning of this particular school, some students have gone back to their base school. Some have missed their friends. Some have wanted a easier shot at top grades. Some have wanted a chance to be a bigger fish, even in a slightly smaller pond. This policy is NOT about allowing students — and their families — to have a chance to take advantage of the best environment available to them.
    What would this principal think of a student like me? 13 AP courses, but erratic grades. I took calculus in 9th grade, but only got a C. I mocked my peers for memorizing and quickly forgetting material, and pointed out to teachers when they encouraged it. When grades do a better job measuring learning, understanding and effort, this policy might make sense. But as long as they measure jumping through arbitrary hoops — however well established — short term memorization and the like, this policy is an atrocity.
    It would be different thing if this student were disruptive or disrespectful of others’ learning. Rather, it is about keeping scores high and the school ranked #1.
    And though I have always been immensely proud of Jefferson, I now am quite ashamed.

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