Three years ago, or shortly before the Dallas Independent School District introduced its "effort-based" grading policy, the school board reminded teachers: They were not to give students a grade lower than a 50 for any one grading period. As the great Kent Fischer noted, "The reason given was that students who fall below 50 have no hope or motivation to bring up their grades and just give up." Here, from August 2008, is Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's memo noting the change: "A grade of 50 is the lowest grade recorded for a six weeks average." (Those virtual post-it notes are Fischer's, by the way.)
State Senator Jane Nelson, the Flower Mound Republican, didn't think much of that policy, which most school districts in the state had put in place, and wrote SB 2033, which flunked no-fail grading and last year passed the House and Senate easily. Said Nelson last June, "Minimum grade policies reward minimum effort. Teachers are in the best position to judge a student's work and should have the freedom to assign grades that reflect the merit of a student's performance." But several state school districts -- DISD among them -- refused to drop the policy, insisting, well, it didn't apply to report cards, so there. Eleven ISDs, most in Houston and none named DISD, sued the Texas Education Agency over the law -- and lost earlier this week, when State District Judge Gisela Triana-Doyal ruled: Students get the grade they get, and that, as they say, is that.
Which brings us to the latest blog posting from DISD trustee Carla Ranger, who was the only board member to vote against the artificial grade boost back in '07 and who now maintains, following the judge's ruling, that "Dallas ISD minimum grading policy violates 2009 state law." Writes Ranger:
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I did not support the minimum 50 grade policy when it was passed by the Dallas ISD board because it appeared to undermine the ability of teachers to honestly assess student performance.
Board Policy EIA (Local) first added the minimum 50 grade requirement on Thursday, January 31, 2008. I made a motion to return the new grade requirement to the policy committee for further review, study and revision. The motion died for lack of a second. ...
It is time for our policy to follow the state law and remove all minimum grade requirements.