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Grading ‘floors’ can become learning ceilings

After a Grade-switching scandal at two high schools, Memphis Superintendent Dorsey Hopson has issued a moratorium on “grade floors,” reports Chalkbeat Tennessee. “Proponents of grade floors had called them a useful tool to motivate students who lag far behind to bring up their grades — for instance, bumping a student performing at 20 percent up to a 60 percent on a scale that requires at least a 70 percent to pass.”

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Failing grades deprive students of hope,” argues Marlena Little, a Memphis teacher. Her fifth graders are two or more years below grade level, she writes. “Without a grading floor, all of my current students would have grades below a 65 percent.”

Grade floors are a “short-sighted solution to a larger issue,” writes Natalie McKinney, who runs a Memphis nonprofit, Whole Child Strategies, Inc. “Obtaining an unearned grade only provides a misleading indication of a child’s growth.”

This matters because our students depend on us to ensure they will be prepared for opportunities after high school. To do this, our students must possess, at the very least, a foundation in reading, writing and arithmetic. If we mask real academic issues with grade floors year after year, we risk missing a chance to hold everyone — community, parents, the school board, district administration, school leaders, teachers, and students — accountable for rectifying the issue.

. . . An accurate grade helps the teacher, parents, and district appropriately respond to the needs of the student. And true compassion lies in how we respond to a student’s F. It should act as an alarm, triggering access to additional work, other intervention from the teacher or school, or the use of a grade recovery program.

Little also wants parents to know the truth about their children’s achievement level by coupling a grade floor “with information that accurately highlights where a student is, both within the district and nationally.”

I side with McKinney, but I see Little’s dilemma. Her fifth-graders have been passed along without learning the reading and math skills they need. Does she fail them all? Or pass them along to sixth grade?

This post first appeared on Joanne Jacobs — Thinking And Linking By Joanne Jacobs, please read the originial post: here

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Grading ‘floors’ can become learning ceilings


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