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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Equitable grading' is racism with a smile

Students don't have to turn in assignments on time -- or at all. The minimum grade for work is 50 percent, even if the student did nothing at all. Students can retake tests. There's no grading penalty for cheating. Of course, classroom participation -- or failure to show up in class -- doesn't count either.

Portland Public Schools (Oregon) have adopted “equitable grading practices” in some schools, and the board is considering expanding to all schools, writes Adam B. Coleman of Wrong Speak Publishing. in the New York Post. What's billed as "equitable" is racist condescension, he writes.

Progressive educators claim to be fighting racial biases, but their proposals are based on racist tropes, he writes. "Real racial bias shows itself when officials claim your black child can’t meet simple expectations like handing in work on time."

Black students need to be prepared for real-world challenges, writes Coleman, author of Black Victim to Black Victor. They don't need pity.

Equitable grading is supposed to assess mastery. “It’s about fairness, it’s about reducing bias, it’s about considering the diverse backgrounds and needs of students,” said Kimberlee Armstrong, the district's chief academic officer.

How do students achieve mastery without doing the work?

Jazz Shaw calls it "a case of determining that Black children are inherently less capable and then waiting for them to live down to your expectations." Students will "show up at each succeeding grade level without the skills and knowledge to tackle the next level of work," fall even further behind and then drop out, she predicts.

When Clark County, Nevada schools tried equitable grading, teachers received no training in how to make it work in the classroom, reports We Are Teachers. Laura Jeanne Penrod, who wrote about the challenges in the Wall Street Journal, saw the benefits of focusing on content mastery rather than behaviors. But mastery declined.

Students felt no sense of urgency to get work done. "Some students wouldn’t complete homework or daily work and then wonder why they didn’t do well on assessments or timed writes," Penrod says. Students who needed time extensions and retakes didn't take advantage of them.

A group of teachers pushed for changes, Penrod says. "The biggest roadblock for student motivation -- no grades below a 50 -- was eliminated." Students now have only five days to turn in late work. Teachers must communicate with students’ families about missing assignments and remediation needs.

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