A judge in Austin, Texas, has ruled that school districts can't force a teacher to award a student a higher grade than he earned. "The districts argued that their policies prohibiting teachers from awarding grades lower than a certain number - typically a 50 - helped keep students from getting discouraged and dropping out of school." Teachers countered with the quaint argument that "the minimum failing grading polices were dishonest and didn't prepare students for college or the workforce." Surprisingly, this argument won the day.
Apparently, in 2009, while I wasn't looking, those kooky conservatives in the Texas legislature passed SB 2033, a law that forbids school districts from requiring its teachers to enter a set minimum grade for their students’ schoolwork. In some schools, the required minimum grade was 50, in others 60 or 70. The law passed unanimously -- then was routinely ignored in practice. El Paso I.S.D. at least told teachers to use their professional judgment in whether to award a minimum grade regardless of whether any work had been done. Other districts ruled that the law applied only to grades of assignments and tests, and not report card grades, although the actual practice intended to be addressed by the law was report card grades. Fort Bend I.S.D. (southwest of Houston) actually prohibited scores of less than 50.
The battles lines are drawn over whether it is more important to ensure that accurate information is made public regarding a school's progress in teaching specific information, or to prevent students from becoming discouraged and dropping out. The strong feeling among educators was that all doubts should be resolved in favor of avoiding discouragement. The educators already were struggling with a "new" law dating from 1995, which “required decisions on promotion or course credit to be based on academic achievement or demonstrated proficiency.” What novelties will these bomb-throwing anarchists come up with next?
When teachers complained that they were still being required to inflate grades, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott issued instructions to school districts that they would be required to comply with the 2009 law. In response, 11 school districts, mostly from the Houston area, sued.
One school administrator explained, "The purpose of it was to keep the kid from throwing his hands up and saying 'I'm failing so I might as well not go to school.'" I guess not much thought was given to persuading the kid to draw another lesson: "I'm failing so I'd better work harder unless I want to repeat this class in summer school."
In other news, Texas Democrats, discouraged by years of virtual one-party rule in that state, proposed a law to award 50% of the votes in an election to the candidate who is trailing in the race. Okay, I may have made that last part up.