Sunday, November 21, 2010

Update: Should We Stop Giving Students F's

Apparently, the official answer is now NO.

About a week ago, I wrote a post about a high school in the DC that had completely replaced the grade F with an Incomplete, which would remain as long as necessary for the student to complete the necessary work at a high enough level to pass the class.  The principal argued that the point of education is for students to acquire mastery, and that goal was more important that the arbitrary length of a school semester.

However, when this policy was reported in The Washington Post, the community went ballistic.  After a maelstrom of protests from parents, teachers, the educational community, and, I'm sure, various and sundry commentators, last Friday the principal sent out an email rescinding the policy.  He says that while he remains committed to his original intention of mastery-based learning, he admits that they hadn't developed sufficient consensus around the issue to move ahead with such a drastic change in grading.  So he will be forming committees and such to see what can be done to develop a mastery-based program that will be accepted by the community.

But students who are currently failing, but who thought they would have additional time to do their work, will receive F's on their next report card if they do not bring up their work and test scores.

I suppose the principal had no choice but to take back his innovations when the parents were so upset.  But I regret that they didn't have more time to see how a "No Failure" program worked out.  I hope they can create some kind of acceptable mastery-based system through their new committees and actually give a new approach a try.


  1. When oh when will people learn to implement pluralistic solutions?!!!

    Make it a choice, let parents/students choose their track, reflect the choice on their transcript.

    So frustrating.

  2. That doesn't fit in with the factory model that our schools are currently based on, even if our society has evolved from industrial era to an informational economy.

  3. Five or six years ago we got together with some friends in Boston, after my presentation they attended, and spent most of the night talking about education. Their kids were in public schools, and they demanded I switch my development efforts to something that would help their kids, since they don't have time to homeschool. By around three AM, I got fed up and told them that if they have the time to chatter with me all night, their "time" argument does not hold water.

    I gave them lots of good references to school-centric developers, though. But scandals like this make me just more entrenched.