Last year, Shelly Campbell's junior English classes complained now and then about all the essays they had to write, but they turned in their assignments.
This year, hardly anyone turns in papers at all to Campbell, a teacher at John Marshall High School in northwest Oklahoma City.
On Friday, seven of her 64 students turned in their homework.
She blames one thing: an informal policy that allows Oklahoma City Public Schools students to receive passing grades in certain classes they've failed.
The Oklahoma City School Board will hear a presentation at its meeting Monday night about a proposal to formalize the process of giving D's to students who failed a class but passed the corresponding end-of-instruction (EOI) exam. High school seniors must pass at least 4 of 7 EOI exams to receive a diploma.
Campbell said she hopes the policy is snuffed altogether.
“It's disappointing,” said Campbell, a former Oklahoma City Public Schools Teacher of the Year. “We're selling our kids short. ... I'm ashamed.”
Policy began last year
The practice started last year, though it has been informal. Some teachers didn't even know grades had been changed, Campbell said.
This year, Campbell asked her students why they weren't doing their work, and they told her: They don't really have to.
“They were very respectful when they said, ‘Why would I do all this stuff when I'm smart enough to pass the EOI?'” she said.
The goal is to streamline and outline informal practices, Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer said.
“I'm basically masking sure that our building principals and teachers know that they have the ultimate say on what a grade's going to be,” Springer said. “We're trying to make it as fair as possible.”
The policy wouldn't change practice that much, Springer said. Teachers and administrators always have been responsible for grades.
“We are just trying to make sure that our building principals and teachers know that they are the people with the power,” Springer said.
Grading practices are decided by local district officials, Kerri White, assistant state superintendent for educational support for the state Education Department.
“There is no state law or state board rule governing grading practices or GPAs,” White said. “We are not involved in that process.”
But White and others have heard that grade-change policies have affected student motivation and work completion in some districts.
Oklahoma City officials met with Melissa White, executive director of counseling and Achieving Classroom Excellence for the state Education Department, to talk about the grade-change policy.