If irresponsible teens were to develop school grading standards, they would look a lot like what the Clark County School District is currently envisioning.
Thursday night, the board of directors is due to vote on an overhaul of district ranking practices. The changes would apply to all schools in the district and fundamentally alter grading policies for the worse.
The first major reform is the elimination of marks below 50 percent. Students who skipped all homework would be awarded a 50 percent mark for their homework rather than a 0.
The new policy also embraces Orwellian double talk by changing the description of an F from “fail” to “emerging.” There’s nothing like fooling parents into believing everything is fine while their child is struggling or listless.
Then, non-academic factors would not be allowed to influence the grades. This includes “overdue or missing homework, attendance, participation (and) responsibility”. The proposal does not contain an exception for cheating.
Finally, academic grades “will include opportunities for reflection, review and reassessment”. This would allow students to endlessly repeat tests, quizzes and homework. They may not even need to retake the tests. A teacher could theoretically increase grades based on different assessments.
The district maintains that these changes are necessary so that students who struggled at the start of class can later show that they have mastered the necessary concepts, officials say. A cynic might suspect that lowering grading standards is in fact an attempt to increase pass and graduation rates.
In fact, students who demonstrate progress over the course of a semester while demonstrating a willingness to get the work done are rarely failed in the first place. These policies will be a boon for those looking to manipulate the system while sliding with minimal effort. The proposals are a particular affront to students who take their studies seriously and strive to be successful by meeting deadlines and completing assignments, even if they don’t get top marks.
Grades are intended to provide assessments of student performance in a particular subject. The new policy undermines this goal and neglects to recognize that true academic progress requires commitment and responsibility.
Under these proposals, students will have many shortcuts to higher grades as well as many excuses to ignore their classwork and procrastinate. This is not a prescription for high results and it will only further devalue a district degree.
The proposed changes to the grading policy send a terrible message and do a disservice to students, parents and educators. District leaders should raise expectations, not abandon them. The school board must step in and reject these terribly misguided reforms.