My last post mentioned the fact that Pittsburgh has altered the grading system so that no student may receive a grade below 50% on any assignment. If you read the last post you can tell from my tone that I don't particularly like this idea. Before I explain why, I thought I'd post the official rationale for the decision. Here's a memo that was sent out to all teachers today:
To: All K-12 PPS Teachers and District Administrators
From: Dr. Jerri Lynn Lippert, Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development, and Mary Van Horn, Vice President Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
Re: Percentage for Failing Grade “E”
The following is the district requirements for issuing class grades for assignments, report card grades, and semester final grades for all K-12 students based on the below grading scale:
B 89%- 80%
D 69% - 60%
The “E” is to be recorded no lower than a 50% regardless of the actual percent earned. For example, if the student earns a 20% on a class assignment, the grade is recorded as a 50%. No percentages below 50% should be recorded regardless of actual percent earned below 50%.
Rationale for Grading Scale:
· Equity Across Schools: The Failing Percentage (59%-50%) creates equity across all schools. Many teachers were already using the 50% as the lowest recorded “E”.
· Increased Student Engagement: Students with failing percentages below 50% often feel helpless and disenfranchised as a result of not being able to recover from low percentages in subsequent nine weeks. Students in this situation may develop or may have increased behavioral and/or attendance issues leading to retention and/or dropping out.
· Unequal Weight: The 59 percentage point band from 0%-59% creates a skewing situation with failing grades carrying more weight than passing grades.
· Not Grade Inflation: Recording 50% as the lowest “E” even if actual percentage earned is less is not grade inflation. The 50% is still failing. In addition, a high school student would have to earn 100% on the semester final in order to pass the semester if s/he had a recorded 50% for both the 1st and 2nd nine weeks.
· Promise Ready: Academically struggling students (who are at greatest risk of retention and/or dropping out) need to feel a sense of grade recovery so that they are motivated to begin to engage in courses and have potential academic success when efforts are applied.