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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

How much credit should students get for failing?



Earning a zero on an assignment can prove daunting to overcome for students as they seek to earn passing grades in class.

But sometimes the zero is deserved, such as when a student doesn't even do the work.

What's a school to do, as it aims to keep struggling students coming back to learn?

Orange County high schools have decided to round up all student grades to a minimum of 50 at the end of each marking period, essentially eliminating the zero, the Orlando Sentinel reports. It doesn't mean students can't fail a quarter or semester: It just means they have a better chance of improving their report cards.

The move might violate state law, which sets F grades at 0-59. Orange officials told the Sentinel they believe the new model to be legal.

Bigger picture, the decision to round up to 50 has rekindled a discussion about the value and importance of grading scales. Many educators argue that telling students they face an insurmountable hurdle to pass their class leads to the students tuning out, possibly even walking away.

"As you know, a zero or two and they're done. Kids will shut off, and they're not recovering. You've already instilled a sense of quitting," former Hernando superintendent Wayne Alexander told his board when proposing a similar policy in 2009. (It failed.)

At the same time, some argue that students should get what they get. Schools shouldn't lower standards, they argue. At most, opponents to the "no zeroes" policy offer that schools might give students partial credit for work turned in late or redone to demonstrate later understanding of the concepts.

"You should never give anybody something for nothing," Orange mom Theresa Millay told the Sentinel.

Is there a middle ground here? Is the state's grading policy too unforgiving (particularly in light of its willingness to bend for school grading)? How much credit should students get for failing?

[Last modified: Monday, July 22, 2013 6:17am]


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