What most students would likely consider an unsightly blemish on their report card is what some California students are asking to have back: the "F" grade.
When Dozier-Libbey Medical High School opened in Antioch, Calif. two years ago, students were graded on an A, B, C, F scale. Ds were banned from report cards in an effort to set higher standards for students, according to the Contra Costa Times.
Parents began complaining, however, that the rigorous system was so stressful that children were driven to depression. It was also negatively affecting students' GPAs, sports eligibility and ability to earn scholarships. So in response, the Antioch Unified School District retroactively changed F grades to D grades in cases where Ds would have been awarded without the policy.
But students like junior Prechous Hodges aren't too keen on the new grading system that introduces D grades, which they say is actually negatively affecting their college prospects, the Contra Costa Times reports. Now that Hodges' F grade in geometry was changed to a D, she can no longer retake the course over the summer in hopes of earning a C or higher. Antioch students can only retake courses they have failed.
But the no-D policy left room for other issues, like students intentionally performing poorly so they can attend summer school. From the Dozier-Libbey student handbook:
At Dozier-Libbey, we believe a student should achieve an acceptable level of proficiency to pass the class. Earning a D grade does not meet this standard. To this end, a grade of A, B, or C is needed to pass. A student with a 69% or lower needs to work with his/her teacher throughout the semester to develop a plan of what must be completed to bring the grade up to a C before the semester grading period. Students will be given an opportunity to re-do certain assessments to show that they have mastered the concepts and bring up their grade. If the work was not turned in originally, there will be no opportunity to re-do it and a zero will remain for that assignment. If the student does not complete the agreed upon work within the time required, the grade for the course at the end of the semester will be an F and no credit for the course will be received.
The grading controversy at Dozier-Libbey reflects a growing national emphasis on higher standards and rigorous coursework. Under a new policy in Georgia's Lowndes County Schools, report cards and progress reports will reflect a 60 out of 100 as the lowest grade, and teachers must offer students opportunities to retake tests and redo assignments until a passing grade is earned. The highest grade earned will be recorded, and teachers cannot record zeros, but can give an "incomplete" for work not turned in after insisting that the assignment be completed.
"Assigning a grade of zero is equivalent to giving up on a child," Assistant Superintendent of Lowndes County Schools Troy Davis told The Valdosta Daily Times in February. "In education, the goal is to truly learn the material rather than simply earn a grade."
The debate around no-zero policies goes various ways. Supporters say it forces teachers to coach students through material until mastery, versus ending a lesson with a test, which a student may fail but not have an opportunity to thoroughly learn it at his own pace. Critics frustrated with these policies argue that it allows students to skirt responsibility and when a student simply refuses to commit to learning or complete assignments, there's little a teacher can do.
A number of districts across the country have toyed with similar policies and have seen mixed results. Schools in Virginia have adopted variations of no-zero policies or guidelines in an effort to curb failure rates -- and increase student chances of graduation. Those in Tennessee are targeting lagging students, offering them more time and attention to make sure they don't receive zeros on assignments.
When school districts in Texas tried to adopt a no-zero policy, however, a judge ruled that schools are required to give students truthful grades under a 2009 state law. School officials fought back, arguing that prohibiting teachers from issuing low grades can help curb student discouragement and dropouts.
To appease the controversy at Dozier-Libbey, the district has made exceptions to their summer schooling policy to allow students with D grades to retake some courses during the extra term.