Why Bail on the Bailey Form?

Elimination of the Bailey override form is a mistake

Kelsey Ichikawa | Staff Writer

It is coming.  Once first semester ends, in its wake will come the flurry of discussing, begging, contemplating, and box-checking formally known as class registration.  Physics or chemistry?  Zero period or marching band?  Credits to fill, classes to graduate, papers to sign!  This year, however, the process will be one form less complicated.  In her November 4th principal’s update, Mrs. Smoot announced the end of the Bailey form, a binding contract that allows a student to irrevocably enroll in an AP or Honors class even if he or she lacks a teacher recommendation.  This coming registration period, a teacher recommendation will be the only way a student can gain admission to an honors or AP course at Irvington.

Mrs. Smoot further explained in an interview that the termination of the Bailey form is meant to ensure students are appropriately fitted to their classes’ academic rigor.  I agree that it is extremely important in Honors and AP courses for students to be at a suitable academic level. Even so, there will be students who can handle a more demanding course load than their teachers permit, and it is necessary to have the Bailey form as another option for those students.

I’m biased, I’ll admit it, because I was an exception, and as someone who benefitted from using the Bailey form I’m mournful to see it go. Last year, I used the Bailey form to enroll in AP US History.  In this situation, my teacher denied me his signature not because he believed I couldn’t handle the difficulty, but because he wanted me to be more relaxed and avoid the high levels of stress I would have endured in the course.  And yes, I do think it’s wonderful when teachers watch out for the welfare of their students, rather than liberally signing every recommendation paper we shove at them.  Yet with all due respect, I’m glad I was able to override his decision.  I sincerely feel that the in-depth enrichment in APUSH has been fascinating, and the high standards a healthy challenge.

By discontinuing the Bailey form, the administration is leaving it up to the teacher to determine the student’s best interests.  But when those interests do not align with the student’s, the final say should go to the student—we are the ones who are physically taking the classes and handling the coursework.  We have our own scholastic goals, and if we are truly willing to accept whatever stress and rigors a course entails, we should have the freedom to pursue those goals.

What’s more, the student is often the best expert on his or her own academic limits.  Granted, there are cases in which a teacher may possess greater acumen in regards to a student’s class selections.  Yet on the whole, we, the students, are more tuned to our capabilities simply because we have known ourselves our entire lives and can draw on that knowledge, while teachers can usually only observe us in a restricted classroom environment.  We are more aware how far we can push ourselves to excel, and it would be a shame to tie us down.

Another benefit to the Bailey form is the personal responsibility it thrusts onto the students.  With the possibility of an override, if students end up unhappy with their classes, they have only themselves to look to.  In regards to the students who use the Bailey form and end up biting off more than they can chew, I don’t see a problem with letting them handle the consequences of a choice they consciously made.  The result of using the Bailey form, whether it’s a disastrous or top-notch grade, gives them a first-hand understanding of their own limits, instead of having someone else define their limits for them. This development is even more significant because many of us will attend higher institutes of education and will face much greater responsibility for our academic pathways.  If the Bailey form is terminated and students find their schedule unsatisfactory, they will blame the administration or teachers and lose out on a valuable learning experience.

We need students to enroll in appropriate level classes, certainly—but at levels appropriate for what the student can and wants to manage, not necessarily what others believe the student can manage.