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EDITORIAL: CCSD Board should reject grading changes

If irresponsible teenagers came up with school grading standards, they’d look a lot like what the Clark County School District is now considering.

On Thursday night, the Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on an overhaul of district grading practices. The changes would apply to every school in the district and would fundamentally change grading policies for the worse.

The first major reform is the elimination of grades under 50 percent. Students who ignored all homework assignments would be rewarded with a 50 percent mark for their homework rather than a 0.

The new policy also embraces Orwellian doublespeak by changing the description of an F from “failure” to “emergent.” Nothing like fooling parents into thinking everything is fine while their child is struggling or apathetic.

Next, non-academic factors wouldn’t be allowed to influence grades. This includes “late or missing assignments, attendance, participation (and) responsibility.” The proposal doesn’t contain an exception for cheating.

Finally, academic grades “will include opportunities for reflection, revision and reassessment.” This would allow students endless retakes of tests, quizzes and assignments. They may not even need to retake tests. A teacher could theoretically boost grades based on different assessments.

The district contends these changes are necessary so that students who struggled early in class can later show they’ve mastered necessary concepts, officials contend. A cynic might suspect that dumbing down grading standards actually represents an attempt to boost passage and graduate rates.

In fact, students who demonstrate progress during a semester while exhibiting a willingness to do the work are rarely failed in the first place. These policies will be a boon to those who seek to manipulate the system while sliding by with minimal effort. The proposals are a particular affront to students who take their studies seriously and strive to succeed by meeting deadlines and completing assignments, even if they aren’t earning top marks.

Grades are intended to provide assessments of how students are doing in a particular subject. The new policy undermines this objective and neglects to consider that true academic progress requires commitment and accountability.

Under these proposals, students will have many shortcuts to higher grades plus ample excuses to ignore their classwork and procrastinate. That is not a prescription for high achievement and will only further devalue a district diploma.

The proposed grading policy changes send an awful message and do a disservice to students, parents and educators. District officials should be raising expectations not abandoning them. The School Board must step up and reject these woefully misguided reforms.

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