Half Credit for No Work, Local Grading Policy Under Fire

Half Credit for No Work, Local Grading Policy Under Fire

(WBFF) -- What if, as a high school student, you could do literally nothing – not even show up – and get a 50 percent as a semester grade? Fox45 found that’s happening in certain schools in our area. The practice itself is designed to help students. But some teachers say it has the opposite effect.

A Florida teacher’s white board message recently went viral after she claims she was fired for refusing to give students grades she says weren’t earned.

Diane Tirado lost her job. The school system says she was fired for poor performance and possible abuse, which is being investigated. But Tirado claims she was fired for not following the school’s guidelines that say a student cannot receive a grade lower than a 50 percent.

"I'm so upset because we have a nation of kids that are expecting to get paid and live their life just for showing up and it's not real,” Tirado told Fox45’s sister station in Florida.

Project Baltimore sat down with a teacher in Baltimore City, which has the same 50 percent minimum grade rule.

“They keep saying, let’s just lower the bar and lower the bar and lower the bar a little bit more,” said Dana Casey, who has taught in City Schools for more than 20 years.

North Avenue told Fox45, in a statement, the intent of the policy is to, “ ensure all students have an opportunity to improve performance throughout the year and can be motivated to overcome personal and academic obstacles to pass a course. If lower numerical grades for a marking period were permitted, a student could easily give up on a course when it became apparent partway through the year that passing was a mathematical impossibility.”

Casey sees it differently.

“The emphasis is on passing. The emphasis is not on learning. The emphasis on passing is important to North Avenue because it affects their numbers,” Casey told us.

City Schools has reason to be concerned with those numbers. Recent Federal data shows Baltimore is America’s third lowest-performing district, ahead of Cleveland and Detroit. Casey believes North Avenue’s 50 percent rule is mostly a way to improve that data so fewer students fail. To see that information from the Nation's Report Card click here.

“The numbers look good. Look at all these kids passing. But they are in eighth grade, and they’ve got a second-grade reading level,” Casey said.

Anne Arundel and Howard County schools do not have this policy. But Baltimore County does. It was adopted just two years ago, in 2016. Project Baltimore wanted to know how this rule benefits students. County Schools administration, as usual, declined an interview. The statement we got, actually said, “no statement.”

“Once or twice on occasion it might help a kid here and there, but it’s ultimately destructive. They’ve sent out the message you will not be held accountable, don’t worry about it,” Casey said. “I have seen over and over again that when you hold children accountable and set standards, they can rise to the occasion. And to constantly act like they are so crippled and broken that they can’t learn, grow and push themselves, is repulsive to me.”

Baltimore County School Board Member Anne Miller told Fox45 she believes the district’s new 50 percent minimum grade policy disincentives students by giving them something they didn’t earn. She also said the grade policy was never piloted, just implemented.

Baltimore City Public Schools entire statement:

“Under the grading policy adopted in 2011, a numerical grade for a marking period (usually an academic quarter) cannot be lower than 50. The intent of the policy, and the longstanding practice that preceded it, is to ensure all students have an opportunity to improve performance throughout the year and can be motivated to overcome personal and academic obstacles to pass a course. If lower numerical grades for a marking period were permitted, a student could easily give up on a course when it became apparent partway through the year that passing was a mathematical impossibility.

As part of the regular review of our district policies, the Board of School Commissioners will be considering revisions to our grading policy in early 2019 and voting on any updates or changes on April 19, 2019. We encourage all community members to provide feedback on the grading policy at community events being scheduled for December and early in the new year. More information on these sessions will be available on our website after the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Edie House Foster

Office of Communications

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