School grading bill merits Oklahoma Legislature's approval

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: May 13, 2013

IN the sometimes Orwellian world of politics, the meaning of words can be twisted beyond recognition. In the Oklahoma House of Representatives, some lawmakers are translating “local control” to mean school administrators have a right to require teachers to engage in grade inflation. Failure to turn in an assignment would be no cause for a student to get a zero.

House Bill 1313, by Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, requires schools to adopt a policy mandating that grades reflect “the relative mastery of an assignment by the student.” The bill would forbid administrators from setting a “minimum grade for an assignment without regard to the quality of work by the student.”

In a nutshell, grades would be based on actual classroom performance — things like homework assignments and tests. This probably doesn't sound revolutionary to most Oklahomans, let alone necessary. Sadly, many schools now have either formal or informal minimum-grade policies requiring teachers to give students at least a 50 even when a student doesn't turn in homework.

Supporters of minimum-grade policies argue the psychological impact of a zero is simply too devastating for students, that those who bomb a few tests will become more likely to drop out. Thus, accommodation must be made.

We suspect most Oklahomans think schools should instead prepare children for adult life. Minimum-grade policies don't do that. In the adult world, a person who fails to show up for work day after day won't get half a paycheck.

A variation of the minimum-grade policy recently occurred in Oklahoma City schools, where an unofficial policy changed grades for students who had an F in class but passed a corresponding state end-of-instruction exam. As we've noted, state graduation exams are meant to ensure minimal competency in core subjects. They're an academic floor. Oklahoma City officials turned them into a ceiling. Teachers reported students stopped turning in all homework as a result.

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