Grading is and always has been an imperfect gradient scale representing at a minimum three things: (1) what a teacher taught, or thought they taught (2) what educators believe students at age/grade level should know (3) test taking skills. It would take a book to write about the other aspects of what a grade represents as it includes the ego of parents and their child, teachers, principals and the public. A grade is not an absolute measure, fluctuates with time (please see my post regarding test scores in NYC http://whereiskatima.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/when-people-lie-about-numbers/) and leaves open interpretation to whomever is evaluating the statistics of the grade. With all of this, it is any wonder that a D could possibly be a passing grade and yet, universally around the U.S. it is the lower end of the barometer of student learning. Kudos to Dr. Larrie Reynolds who with his school board, and apparently many intrigued parents, decided to no longer accpet the lower range of grading as acceptable.
Dr. Reynolds and the school board did something which takes an amazing amount of courage in todays day and age as he must indeed live with the following scenarious playing out, of which only one is the preferred outcome. Since students now know (and their families) that grades do have a basement and it will cost the family (money and time) to get the kids out of the basement, there is potential for students and their families to take learning much more seriously. This also hinges on how many students prior to this grading decision of August 2010 were socially promoted and will need to really spend some quality time at Sunset Academy (make up after school/night school) to get in the groove, so this year could be troublesome.
The other scenario is that the students and parents begin to blame teachers and the school for students not succeeding, much in the way all of New York was lied to about what constitutes ‘proficient’ on standardized testing. In this case, the denial of responsibility by the student and parents is right back to square one so Dr. Reynolds and the board of education have a tough path to thread their way through.
Assuming Mount Olive is a community of reasonable minded people, I opt for students and parents becoming much more serious now that there are indeed some rewards and sanctions, of which getting dumb (street terminology) is not an option.
I am completely hopeful this plan of action works as no one in their right mind would want to accept a driver with a D on their drivers license exam (your car, bus, subway drivers), a trash man or custodian who obtains a D on understanding the relationship of garbage to public sanitation and picks up the trash in your neighborhood, the babysitter who scored D in school and babysits your children or the person working at the food establishment where you buy lunch (yech – I don’t even want to think about getting a D in food prep and sanitation), which are typically the low end of the job sets, never mind that there is no reason anyone should have to accept a doctor, lawyer, banker, president, etc. who obtained D’s.
The biggest pitfall lies in teachers adjusting grades to avoid having to fail a large group of students, which most likely came from all the social promotions of years past. I hope Dr. Reynolds and the teachers in his district remain faithful to their choice and do not bend as this grading scenario is really in the students best interest.
P.S. I sure wish Superintendent Michelle Rhees of Washington D.C. and all the charter schools (KIPP, Aspire, Leadership, Green Dot, etc.) would take a meeting with Dr. Reynolds. The reform Dr. Reynolds is after can truly have traction and be a change for GOOD.