Shelly Campbell, who teaches junior English classes, says the grading policy has caused students to stop doing school work. Just seven of 64 students in her class recently turned in homework. She rightly decries the district's informal policy, which disincentivizes learning.
We support the graduation standards as an important tool to prevent schools from issuing diplomas to students who clearly don't have a minimal high school education. But those standards are designed as an academic floor; Oklahoma City officials are turning them into a ceiling.
Emphasizing students' self-esteem rather than actual learning has serious long-term negative consequences. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education reports 38 percent of Oklahoma students graduating from high school in 2010 and enrolling in college took at least one remedial course. College remediation rates for some high schools' graduates were as high as 90 percent.
Harsher impacts can be seen in Oklahoma Department of Corrections' data. In fiscal year 2011, state prisons tested 8,126 offenders. Nearly a fourth of them read at or below the fifth-grade level; 91.2 percent read at or below the ninth-grade level.
This is a case where the obvious impulse is the correct response. Social promotion and grade inflation harm children and should be ended. Students' self-esteem should be based on actual achievement. It does no good to give a child an “education” that doesn't include academic learning.