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How far should schools go to enable failing students to raise their grades?

The AJC had a news story on a report by Atlanta Public Schools on grade changing at its high schools.

AJC education reporter Molly Bloom wrote:

In some Atlanta high schools, student grades are commonly changed from failing to passing after students complete extra assignments or "remediation" work, according to an Atlanta Public Schools internal analysis released Friday.

The APS report details the 2,134 grade changes made last year. About 50 percent involved changing a numeric grade to a higher grade. About 25 percent were letter grades changed to numeric grades. And another 25 percent involved lowering grades.

The report found that grade changes due to "remediation" work were most common at two schools --- Douglass High School and South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice, the school whose grade changes led to the district investigation.

"They had the largest number of cases where the use of remedial assignment, unit recovery, and mastery grading were employed to provide students additional time and opportunities to pass courses or improve low grades," according to the report.

Records obtained by Channel 2 Action News under state public records laws show that in Atlanta high schools grades were sometimes changed months or years after the fact due to "remediation" work.

One teacher supported changing grades in response to remediation or extra work by the student, even months after a class ended. She argued the goal ought to be educating students, not failing them. Why should it matter when students complete the work as long as they're eventually successful and meet the requirements to pass?

Her main point: Does it matter if students reach the finish line on May 15 or Aug. 15? Just as there may be students who could wrap up an algebra course in six months, others may need 18 months, she said. Why do schools lock every student into the same schedule and same expectations?

Here’s why, contended the other teacher. That’s how the world works. There are deadlines. There are expectations.

It's not helpful to let students raise their grades by turning in work months or years later, she said. Most students need the pressure of a fixed deadline to finish their assignments. Give students reprieves from those deadlines and schools will have 19-year-olds turning in 10th grade English papers, she warned.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.