‘No-fail’ grading gets an ‘H’

“No-fail” grading hasn’t passed the test — or failed, reports Fox News. More school districts have abolished the “F,” hoping that students will try to turn an “H” (for “held”) into a passing grade. But the strategy is controversial.

Last week in Texas, state senators backed the elimination of “no-fail” grading by unanimously approving a measure that would prohibit school districts from forcing teachers to dole out minimum grades to failing pupils. The bill was introduced by Republican State Sen. Jane Nelson, who said the trend toward “no-fail” grading encourages manipulation of the education system.

. . . Nelson, a former public school teacher, said minimum grade policies reward “minimum effort” from students who “live up or down” to expectations set by educators.

Sherri Johnson, director of programs for the National Parent Teacher Association, said “no-fail” may encourage low-performing students to stay in school.

“What an ‘F’ says is that you just don’t get it,” Johnson said. “But what if the child gets pieces of it but they haven’t mastered everything? Or perhaps that ‘F’ says you failed three tests but not necessarily failed the entire skill.”

Some students simply don’t perform well on exams, and grades typically don’t reveal “what’s behind” the failure, Johnson said.

It’s too soon to say whether abolishing the “F” will limit failure. However, only 16 percent of first-semester “H” grades were raised to passing grades in the second semester in public high schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Fox notes.

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  1. However, only 16 percent of first-semester “H” grades were raised to passing grades in the second semester in public high schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Fox notes.

    The question to ask here is how that compares with the percentage of “F” grades raised to passing grades in previous semesters.

  2. ucladavid says:

    This is just another example of not trying to ruin the self-esteem of students. The students who fail my class are the ones that don’t do homework/classwork and/or don’t study for tests. Right now, I have about 20 students (out of about 150) who are failing my class. All of them have missing multiple assignments. All have received very low scores on tests due to not paying attention in class or not studying.

    Kids who fail a class are usually pretty honest about why they failed it, and they will honestly say that they didn’t study or didn’t feel like doing the homework.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    There might be something to the notion of refusing to allow students to fail, and demanding that they perform the work no matter what. I suspect that it’s more common than realized that students are aware that there is no substantive difference between the F given for an assignment that fails after hours of effort, and an F given for an assignment that isn’t done because the student went to the beach instead, and so knowing, opt to go to the beach.

    But let’s be honest: in response to one of the little snarks in the article, if you fail three exams, you don’t have the skill. You don’t even have bits and pieces of the skill. (Whatever the hell “the entire skill” is; presumably something to do with performing matrix transformations, or understanding the causes of World War 2.) School, like life, shouldn’t be measuring what’s cryptically stashed away in the dusty corners of your mind. Like any job, what matters is results. If you can’t discuss the causes of World War 2 intelligently and in coherent sentences, either out loud or on paper, you DON’T KNOW THE CAUSES OF WORLD WAR 2 IN ANY CONSTRUCTIVE WAY.

    Period. End of story.

  4. How are we helping a HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT get ready for the “real world” when we do not allow them to see consequences to their decisions? I believe that a student must learn that failure is an option. It’s not one they have to accept, but it usually means that they must make a commitment and demonstrate some effort. The problem with education, today, is this ridiculous notion that all students can learn or even want to learn to the same level as their peers. We allow students to “game the system” until they get what they want while frustrating everyone around them. The “real world” has been telling us for years that education is failing because we fail to graduate students who can actually perform in the “real world”. I realize that this is a generalization, but isn’t that what the educational establishment has become?

  5. “Some students simply don’t perform well on exams, and grades typically don’t reveal “what’s behind” the failure, Johnson said.”

    I don’t need a test to know why some of my students “don’t perform well on exams.” The reason is straightforward and simple: they don’t perform well becuase the don’t know the material well.

    Now, why they don’t know the material well is another story. . . .

  6. Betty Ann Sisson says:

    Bob said that “we allow students to ‘game the system’ unti they get what they want while frustrating everyone around them,” which is a good thought. But I wonder if a more accurate thought would be that we allow students to “game the system” until WE get what we want–whether it is higher test scores, better percentages, whatever data will best support whatever agenda is being promoted.

  7. Well, when these hell-raisers get out into the real world, they’ll find employers really don’t give a crap about their self-esteem, cause if they can’t perform on the job, they’ll be tossed out the door (High School stopped being about preparing students for the real world years ago), these days, it’s what clique’s you can belong to, how to be the biggest badass in class, or some other idiotic thing.

    Kids, take note, if you are never allowed to fail, you’ll never learn anything either.

  8. LOL. Right. Because high school in the 50′s wasn’t about the in-group. Tht’s just what teenagers are all about; I don’t care what decade you’re talking about.

    As a veteran of the non-ed workplace, I’ve seen employers put up with an AWFUL lot of crap.