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If Report Cards Could Talk


Should teachers be able to give failing students a grade below a certain percentage? Teacher representatives in Dallas think so, demanding that district trustees reevaluate a policy that restricts teachers from giving students any grade below 50, according to dallasnews.com.

The policy is designed to give struggling students a chance to recover from poor work. But at a time when the school system is trying to raise standards and begin awarding teacher bonuses based on student achievement, members of the teacher group Alliance-AFT say the policy is “hypocritical,” and encourages a lax attitude in students. "Teachers need to be able to give the grades kids earn," says Aimee Bolender, the group’s president.

Advocates of the policy stressed that its purpose is to dissuade failing students from taking on defeatist attitudes and to afford them the opportunity to improve. Asks Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, “Are we interested in seeing kids fail or seeing them be successful?”


I think we are confusing scores with grades. I had a junior high school teacher who introduced me to this hold harmless below 50% concept. It protects against a disproportional weight being given to failure. All scores from zero to 50 earn an F. Every decile above that accounts for a change in grade. By granting an automatic 50%, this is evened out without boosting any individual grade.

Given the broad permissions granted to teachers to create and grade their own assessments, grades are a particularly arbitrary rating system--even using a hard and fast percentage system. Sound more like the union has its undies in a bunch about tying bonuses to student achievement and is taking it out on the students. Not a very professional or seemly scenario, in my view.

Margo, I think you're confused. If a student passes a course in which his 4 quarterly grades were 50, 50, 70, 70, but the teacher wants to give him 0, 0, 70, 70, because he did none of the assigned work in the first two quarters, the student's recorded achievement is LOWER, so this can hardly assist a teacher who needs higher achievement to get a bonus. In this case, it is the teachers who are standing up for real achievement, while the policy allows students to be passed along without real mastery of the subject, something that is hardly in their best interests.

I firmly believe that poor grades are a result of variable such as: poor core curriculum, poor instruction, or misalignment to the assessment, poor classroom and behavior management.

When instruction is worksheet-based, the results you get will be poor. Students need concepts presented to them in different forms (Differentiated Instruction) which takes a different type of planning by the teacher. Also using the principles of Universal Design, the teaching and learning cycle would be more effective.

Just because something is "taught" or "covered" does NOT mean it is learned by the students. Low motivation you say? Then find a way to tap into the STUDENTS' interests. Times have changed. Are we trying to teach using outdated methodologies or worse yet- unethical methods? Teachers need to ACTIVELY monitor student learning instead of sitting and grading papers, on the computer, or doing other paperwork that should be reserved for conference time. Also examine any biases you might have for linguistically and culturally diverse students. They don't all learn the same way! Examine your subgroups and see who is benefitting from your instructional practices and who is not.

Like I said, poor grades are a direct result of inadequate instructional practices and student progress monitoring, and poor classroom and behavior management.

Did this message strike a chord? I hope I gave you something to think about...

Does a student who is absent 3 days per week earn a 50%? Does the student have any responsibility?

Hey JR,
What about the kid who doesn't hand in any papers: 0,60,100,65 &85 on quizzes and 0,0,0,29/35,92,0,38/50, 26/50,78,0?
What should he get? This doesn't fall under your variables.

JR does raise some valid points and so does Pete. Where are the administrator and the parents?

Personally, I worked extremely hard with an eighth grade boy who did nothing the first quarter in math. His average was a 19. The rest of the year he averaged in the high 70's - mid 80's which earned him a solid C and low B on his report cards. The first quarter 19 so heavily scewed his average that there was no way he could pass. After talking with administration, we raised the 19 to a 50. It was the right thing to do.

Margaret--no, I wasn't confused. I was not trying to suggest that the teachers were trying to slip in higher grades to get bonuses. I suspect that this has become an issue because they are upset at having to prove progress in order to earn bonuses--and feel punished. So their response is to try to ensure that they have equal punishing capabilities.

Some of the comments really do support my supposition that grades are highly arbitrary. How much of a grade is determined by homework? What does no homework turned in indicate with regard to the student's learning (ie: are you measuring learning, home support, or organizational skills?). Raising zeros to a 50(%) won't lift a kid above failure unless there are some other positive scores in there.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Margo/Mom: Margaret--no, I wasn't confused. I was not trying to suggest read more
  • Doug: JR does raise some valid points and so does Pete. read more
  • Pete Fleche 11th & 12th yr. Eng.: Hey JR, What about the kid who doesn't hand in read more
  • Maria Bueno-Delgado, teacher: Does a student who is absent 3 days per week read more
  • JR: I firmly believe that poor grades are a result of read more




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