Commentary: DISD Minimum 50 Grade Policy: "For" | KERA News

Commentary: DISD Minimum 50 Grade Policy: "For"

Dallas, TX –

The Dallas ISD Education Plan is based on the premise that students only improve academically through focused hard work. Engaging students in rigorous and relevant academic work is the only way we will see the increase in student achievement necessary to become the top urban school district in the country. To do this, the district had to review and revise how students are held accountable for their learning. We asked - does our current grading policy support students graduating college and workforce ready? The answer was - not completely. We know - from both national and district research on graduation rates - one key reason for students dropping out of school is that they get behind in passing their required courses. They then feel that ever catching up is, well, a hopeless cause. While most of what was already in board policy supported our work to improve student engagement and student achievement, there were certainly areas for improvement. One of the areas that has been in policy and will be continuing is the requirement that a grade of a 50 be the minimum score a student can receive on their report card for a six weeks grade. I'll discuss maintaining the 50 minimum in a moment, but let me first outline one key change to the district's current grading policy.

Making up failed tests: In our Education Plan, we are striving to ensure that all students are in an environment that supports the growth of their own learning through rewarding and encouraging their effort. Giving students one opportunity to retake a failed exam encourages students to continue to try harder and not settle for failure. This is an important life skill for their future. So, under the new language of the policy, students, within a predetermined time-frame (they can't just come in a month later and decide to take a test) are allowed to make-up a failed test and earn a higher grade. And yes, even if that make-up grade is a 100. In essence, we are now saying, because you went home and studied and prepared for this test, and because you obviously showed mastery of this content and gave extra effort to learn, you will receive the grade you earned.

Now let's go back to the current policy requirement of 50 as the minimum grade for a six-weeks report card. Again, this is currently in our policy and has been in place for many years. This is also a very common policy across the state and in our urban counterpart districts. This minimum 50 grade, part of the current policy, will continue under the newly adopted grading policy. Like the retest portion of the policy, this 50-minimum, six-weeks grade allows students a chance to recover from one failure. For example, a student who gets a 50 on the first six weeks report card, must earn on their own a grade average of 80 on the second six weeks and 80 on the third six-weeks just to get a minimum passing average of 70 for the semester grade. This requires a student who has failed once to give extra effort that goes well beyond the minimum passing requirement.

These two features of the Dallas ISD grading policy reflect our belief that students get smarter through focused hard work. It is their right and our responsibility to provide avenues for them to succeed when they try hard and master the curriculum, even if it takes them a little longer than we predict.

As we all know, "If at first you don't succeed, try try again." This policy just allows and encourages our students to try one more time.

Vincent Reyes is Executive Director of Core Curriculum and Instruction for the Dallas Independent School District.

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