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The Big Fat "F": Schools Debate Grading Procedures

May 20, 2008

by Paulina Mis

The meaning of that embarrassingly scarlet F on your math test used to be pretty clear; you messed up—big time. While a failing grade still represents a lack of understanding, some schools argue that awarding scores below the 50 percent mark may do more harm than good. Worried that changing their GPA could become an impossible feat for students with particularly low grades, some districts have been controversially attaching a minimum score of 50 to all Fs. Because all other grades are based on a ten-point system, giving students at least 50 points is reasonable, they argue.

According to USA Today, opponents are concerned that schools awarding additional points were unfairly grouping all failing students together.  ED Fields, the founder of HotChalk.com, a websites for educators and students, stated that, “Handing out more credit than a student has earned is grade inflation…I certainly don’t want to teach my children that no effort is going to get them half of the way there.”

Still, numerous schools have gone forward with their plans. The district of Hillsboro, Oregon hopes to ease into their change in grading policies, while a school in Port Byron, New York has already implemented a system wherein computers round up scores below an F. With some assistance, teachers hope that failing students can find sufficient incentive to improve their grades


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