Forbidden to fail students, a fourth-grade teacher in Baton Rouge has filed suit against the principal, superintendent and school board. Sheila Goudeau, a teacher for 20 years, says teachers were told to make 60 percent the lowest score and D the lowest grade, no matter how poorly students had performed. She claims the principal harassed her for protesting the policy.
Setting a minimum score at 60 percent (or 50 percent) is becoming common. The theory is that students will try to improve a 60 percent but will give up if their average is so low that they can’t possibly raise it to a passing grade. On the other hand, why try if you’ll be passed along anyhow?
My honors chemistry teacher let us retake tests to raise our grades, if we thought we could do better. My daughter’s journalism teacher let students rewrite assignments to raise their grades. It seems fair to let students wipe out bad marks by proving they’ve mastered the material. Pretending they’ve learned fourth-grade work and are ready for fifth grade is setting kids up for failure, as Goudeau says. That’s failure with a D, I guess.
In checking out Downtown College Prep’s new web site, I saw the story of Pauline Fernandez, who moved in with neighbors in 12th grade after her mother’s death from a brain tumor. “Pauline wants to learn; not just earn credits. In fact, she asked one math teacher to fail her so she could take the class again to get a better grasp of the concepts.” An ’08 DCP graduate, Pauline goes to community college and works two jobs to support herself. She plans to transfer to San Jose State to complete a four-year degree. That was her mother’s dream. (The book is here.)