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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Easy-pass policy fails students

In last week’s post on “grading floors,” Memphis teachers debated whether giving minimum grades for minimal achievement motivates failing students — or misleads them and their parents.

Emily Langhorne taught in  affluent Fairfax County, Virginia before joining the Progressive Policy Institute, she writes on The 74. She became complicit in 

lowering expectations for students’ achievement and work habits.

District policies discourage teachers from setting “hard” deadlines or “giving a student less than 50 percent on an assignment (regardless of the quality of work or level of completion),” Langhorne writes. Teachers are encouraged to “allow retakes on all major assignments if a student earns less than an 80.”

Not only do these policies create extra work for already overworked teachers, they also promote an attitude of low expectations that does a disservice to our students in the long run. They teach students that deadlines aren’t important, that you can receive half the credit for none of the work, that achievement is detached from practice, and that you can always bank on a second chance.

In theory, students are graded for “ultimate mastery of skills or content knowledge,” she writes. But they’re not. Thanks to “quality points,” a student who earns an A in the first quarter and fails the next three quarters will pass with a D.

Districts across the country have begun to impose similar policies on teachers. . . . Teachers know it’s unethical, and they know that the students will suffer the consequences when they leave high school misinformed about their abilities and unprepared for college and the workforce.

Only 12 states require graduation exam, writes Langhorne. “We’re afraid that our kids will fail, so, instead, we fail them by sending them off to college and the workforce, knowing that they’re underprepared.”

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