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Killing Minimum Grades in Texas


It’s getting harder and harder to fail in Texas. According to The Dallas Morning News, a growing number of Texas school districts are prohibiting teachers from giving grades lower than a 50, 60, and sometimes even a 70. This prompted state legislators to create a bill that, if passed, would prohibit the practice of giving minimum grades to failing students.

Republican Senator Jane Nelson, a former teacher who introduced the bill, said the practice of putting a minimum on student grades encourages students to “game” the system.

"Kids are smart and can figure it out," she said. "A student in one of these districts with a minimum grade of 70 can sit in class and say, 'I don't have to do any homework, I don't have to answer any questions on tests, and they still have to give me a 70 no matter what.'"

According to the Morning News, Senate Education Committee Chairman Florence Shapiro supports the legislation along with all of the state’s major teacher organizations.

Critics of the bill say it would both infringe on local control of schools and do away with a built-in safety net for struggling students.

"There are students who make mistakes and wind up with poor grades in one grading period during the semester,” said Leslie James, assistant superintendent for policy and planning in the Fort Worth school district. “If they are not allowed to turn it around, it can become hopeless for the student. They need an opportunity to bounce back.”


School is supposed to be preparing these kids for adulthood. As an adult if you do not do your work and you don't complete projects in a timely manner you lose your job. Allowing students to get away with this kind of behavior is only hurting them in the long run.
As far as those who make a mistake and then have to work harder, again I say you are not doing them any favors in the long run by allowing them an easy way out.

I agree that struggling students need extra help and incentives to continue trying. Bringing all students down to the struggling students level hurts all students.

I've been reading in EdWeek and Teacher magazine for months and months, and finally someone actually mentions students in an article!

Kudos to Sen. Nelson for clearly discerning that it's how kids respond to our "interventions" that makes all the difference. And most of the time, they respond in ways that are far different that what our adult minds intend.

As often happens, there is much to be said for both sides in this discussion. Students do need a chance to recover; they also need to know that there are real consequences for their actions. Our school has an interesting policy. We have minimum grades of 60 for freshman (passing is 70), and it drops by 5 points for their sophomore year (55), 5 more for their junior year (50), and disappears (0) their senior year. If they need minimum grades by then, we're all in serious trouble :)

It's worked well.

I agree totally with Senator Nelsen! As a second year teacher, I find myself wondering what the future of my 9th graders will be. Will they expect their bosses or college professors to give them credit for nothing? I also know from entering in grades that if a zero brings a student's grade average down 30 points, it can easily be brought up significantly if they turn something in! I graciously accept work from students up to the end of the six week grading period for up to 70%. The 70 will bring that awful grade up again. They will not be doomed for failure if they have a zero, because they can make it up. This motivator will teach them to be responsible for their own actions!

I agree with not allowing elementary students to get below a 50. They can still fail without getting heart broken with zeros, but once junior high hits there's no need to "help students along" we need to prepare students for adulthood

I think the funniest argument for the minimum grading is that a child has a "60% chance to fail". This is flawed logic. That basically means that grading of a student is based on some random chance rather than the amount of work and study they have put it. Ok, Timmy, I'm going to reach in this bag and you'll get whatever grade I pull out. Good luck!

The grading process is a method of evaluating what portion of a curriculum a student has mastered during a term. Without grades, students can loaf along, pulling a 60 (in FWISD)regardless of what they do or don't do and then ask for all of their makeup work during the last cycle of a term.

Teachers have dumbed down their curriculum to the lowest common denominator to the point that students who apply themselves can easily achieve a grade of 90 for this third cycle and a passing average for the term is easily achievable. Teachers are actually expected to participate in this farce with a straight face and their integrity put away somewhere.

What's wrong with schools these days? In a word...administrators. Teacher didn't set up this nonsense. Administrators who would rather turn out an inferior product than insist that students excel at their studies or do the course over in the summer are responsible for this.

And this is not a new grading policy...this has been going on since the 70's. No wonder Johnny can't read and colleges need remedial courses.

Good luck getting this really changed.

I'm just happy to see the debate. The report card grade is intended to provide an accurate description of the students performance during an identified grading period. All grading periods should weigh equally when determining the final grade for the year. IF a student earns a 3% in the 1st of four grading periods for some reason and then earns subsequent grades of 75%, 88%, and 93%, the student finishes the year with an average of 64.7% (a D). In a system that averages grades simply on a 4-point alpha system the student would earn an F, C, B, and an A for an average of 2.25 or a C. How can we as educators - if we are so wise and intelligent - function in a system that could assign two entirely different grades to the same student for the same work? Which system of grading will prevent dropouts? These are our most widely used systems - these are not "giving" students anything - it's holding "us" accountable for explaining "our" system of grading. You would think that for all our college education, we could get something right!

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Recent Comments

  • Doug Thoburn: I'm just happy to see the debate. The report card read more
  • 40yearsateacher: The grading process is a method of evaluating what portion read more
  • soulsabr: I think the funniest argument for the minimum grading is read more
  • Teacher2009: I agree with not allowing elementary students to get below read more
  • L.Forbes: I agree totally with Senator Nelsen! As a second year read more




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