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New School Policy Would Cap Failing Grades

If Shelton school administrators decide to practice a new grading policy, the lowest score a student could receive would be 50.

Shelton's teachers and are considering a new grading policy, where 50 would be the lowest numerical score a student can receive for their final grade of each marking period, and (in some cases) for individual classes and exams.

The policy is already in place at , where principal Lorraine Williams said she thinks it already is and will continue to be successful. "The benefit is that if you flunk right away, you're not done right away. You still have a chance," she said.

So, if a student were to receive anything below a 50 early on in the marking period, they won't necessarily end up with a failing grade when report cards are distributed for the quarter.

Williams and Shelton schools superintendent Freeman Burr said that by putting a cap on what the failing grade would be, the system is giving everyone a chance to be successful. However, this does not mean everyone will ultimately pass.

"If they flunk, they flunk. We're not changing that part of it," Williams said.

Nothing is official yet, and Burr said the policy is being considered carefully. "Each school is examining grading practices," he said. "Particularly grades 5-12 are looking at it trying to determine what will work best for them."

Burr said that at the and levels, factors like course credit and level make implementing the policy a delicate task. Furthermore, it could vary amongst classes and departments, depending on how a teacher or department decides to grade students.

"Weights come into play, particularity those that might be subjective, such as with homework or class participation," he said. "There's a lot of aspects to it. If I'm quiet but a good student, does my grade go down because I speak up less in class?"

Overall, though, Burr said administrators are striving for continuity within the public school system.

"As [students] leave grade 6, we want them to be prepared for the expectations for how they’ll be graded for 7 and 8," he said. "We have to make sure that as kids are transitioning, they're not leaving one world to an erratically different one."

Burr said Shelton teachers are already privy to literature on effective grading practices, and that some research shows zeros can demotivate kids. "Each department has to explore the components of their grading practices. It won’t happen overnight," he said.

Jeff March 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM
I think this is a tremendous idea because it fits so well into the success of how we operate as adults in the real world and it perhaps should be applied. For instance, if as an adult we run through a stop sign 6 out of 10 times and on the 6th time we strike and kill a child on a bike we won't have to be troubled by prosecution because after all society will have to look the other way since we didn't do any harm on the previous 5 times. Taking the same 6 out of 10 example, if a nurse hands a patient the wrong meds that number of times and on the 6th time the patient has a hemorrhagic stroke at least the nurse can hope to keep their job. I think the school system is hoping we are blinded idiots only 50% of the time. If a single statement can sum up the direction this society is going in regards to education let me say to all you parents, nurture your kids, stay on top of what they are doing in school, encourage them to go above and beyond what is above and beyond, explain to them that there are consequences to their actions both the good and bad ones, and probably most importantly help them to understand that there is nothing remotely easy about being successful and/or living comfortably in this world. If not you than who will?
Marcy Clair March 20, 2012 at 04:20 PM
So if you don't turn in an assignment, the lowest you can get is 50???!!!! That doesn't give the students much incentive to do their homework/projects. Great idea, keep them coming.
Chris March 20, 2012 at 04:21 PM
By this logic if i dont hand in half my assignments and get 100s on the one i actually do hand in ill end up with a solid 75. This is the worst possible prep for college courses. In college one missed assignment can cause your grade to drop a letter grade or more. This is simply a way for Burr to increase the overall average grade for people who dont try in school and will in result make shelton look like a better community. The way i see it, if they dont want to learn then they dont derserve to learn. Half of SHS is filled with kids that just want to drop out and work at B.K anyways.
paul March 20, 2012 at 08:28 PM
this is a great idea... while most colleges and the rest of the country hover around the 70% mark or higher, our kids can remain at 50% and they can use the valid argument, "but i still passed!".
Kate March 21, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Why do we even use grades anyways? In the real world, and in most college classes, evaluation is simply feedback. If kids weren't so discouraged by getting bad grades, they might have the confidence to actually take an interest in what they're learning. Engagement is more important than some arbitrary number. And as a SHS grad from the class of 2008, I can tell you that one teacher might give you a 60 on an essay that another one would give you a 90. These kids are only going to learn if they care about what they're learning, and trust me they DON'T care about arbitrary numbers and standardized tests.
Kate March 21, 2012 at 12:41 AM
“. . . a grade is an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgment by a biased and variable judge of the extent to which a student has attained an undefined level of mastery of an unknown proportion of an indefinite amount of material.” – Paul Dressel
JP March 21, 2012 at 01:46 PM
What a joke! When I was in school 30 years ago, you took a test and the score you got reflected how well you had studied and knew the subject. If you failed or got a D or C, you either worked harder or went to the teacher for help, or maybe got a tutor to assist you. This is a perfect example of why educational scores in the US continue to go down -- our education system has dedicated itself to lower standards for both students and educators. The only students who succeed are the ones with parents that drive them to overachieve and get the grades and test scores they need to get into a good college program. For students that don't have that kind of parenting, teachers used to fill the void and provide the help and motivation that was missing at home. Not anymore. The education system in this country now just tries to push kids through and fudge test scores to meet whatever the current BS government standards are. Sad.
Think Critically March 22, 2012 at 02:22 AM
http://www.leadandlearn.com/sites/default/files/articles/caseagainstzero.pdf This is not a new idea. Educational research very much supports the idea. If you think critically about the A (90-100) B(80-89) C(70-79) and D (60-69) and F(0-59) you will see the problem with grading on this scale. The ratios do not make mathematical sense. Sad, JP, that you did not learn this 30 years ago.
Sparky March 22, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Shelton's new approach to grading reminds me of Ridgefield's Honor Roll where two thirds of the student body make it onto the list. Do you think colleges are fooled by this? If so, maybe Shelton should implement it too.
Jeff March 22, 2012 at 11:49 AM
You know what the saddest thing to come out of this topic is? Clearly the general consensus is that this concept is silly and there is a clear trend that there isn't support for it vs being supported. Check who Shelton Patch quoted in what people are saying which is the round up of comments from the various local Patches to opinion posts. They quoted Kate above. Does everyone see where Shelton Patch and their writers lean? This is what upsets people all across this country. The lib-media takes a side on everything. Gone are the days where they report but instead subtly sway readers and listeners opinion. So anyone who didn't read all our well thought comments above and just read this round up type post would think that everyone in Shelton supported this ridiculous grading proposal. Wake up everyone! There's still time to get off the train steaming towards the abyss.
JP March 22, 2012 at 01:26 PM
"Think Critically"? Based on an article from some academic think tank from 8 years ago? How about trying to think logically? OK, let's change the system and make 0-49 the new benchmark for failure. Better yet, let's do away with all alphabetical grading and simply score students by the number or percentage of questions they get correct in various subjects. When anyone in academia or business looks at high school or college candidates' records and sees one student with an average score of 55 and one with an average score of 88, which student do you think is going to be chosen for academic advancement or for a job? The first student was able to master a little more than half the subject matter, the second student mastered almost 90%. Although our educational system would like to alter reality, in the competitive world we live in mastering less than 60% in of any field of study makes you a failure. The ratios make perfect sense. You can drop failure to 50% if you like -- being in the 50% to 59% range will give you no advantage in the world, it will only allow the education system to push that person along to the next grade.
Mary Anne March 23, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Socialism in the classroom. What is happening! This is not the way to motivate kids...This is just a way to make everyone mediocre! Terrible idea. As a teacher I can say, it is fine to curve a test..In those cases sometimes kids end up with a grade over 100. But, this, this idea is wrong!...Please next we will just be telling kids everyone gets a B....Really where is the motivation?
Mary Anne March 23, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Please! Kids don't have to be discouraged by bad grades....Just study and work hard and you won't get bad grades. But nowadays everyone wants something for free...
Kate March 23, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Which of your students have the most motivation to do well? I'm guessing the ones who already get good grades. And I fail to see how this is socialism, care to elaborate?
James H March 23, 2012 at 04:46 PM
“Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades; they'll give you as many chances as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING”...Bill Gates
James H March 23, 2012 at 04:48 PM
The idea of schools should be to teach our children that life is not made up of "grading on a curve". In the real world (especially in this economy) the jobs will be retained by those that excel not just get by. If children are discouraged by bad grades the parents should get involved. “Dumbing” down a process never results in excellence unless you're measuring the ability to excel at mediocrity.
JP March 23, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Absolutely correct. Ninety percent of the responses here are against this practice, but it is only one of the few comments in favor of it that make it to the round-up "highlights." Would the editors of the Patch care to comment on that?
Mary Anne March 23, 2012 at 09:14 PM
The kids who do well (with very few exceptions) are those whose parents value education, those who have good role models, and those who are taught to work hard. They don't feel entitled to good grades... This is especially true in the inner city where I work. The ones who "already get good grades" don't just get them by accident. They studied, they sacrificed.... It sounds to me like you believe all students are not created equal. Yes, some students have a natural ability in certain areas and find certain subjects easier than other kids...But overall, most kids excel at something. As teachers we try to help them find that area where they shine. Your policy would not prepare them for the real world....Unfortunately, many are starting to buy into your ideas...and say, to the kids in effect, don't worry if you can't do the work...we'll take care of you. Sounds like other failed programs out there.

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