As teachers, we all have to live with rules that we don’t completely agree with. If it were up to me, students would not be allowed to wear pajamas to school, but no one asked my opinion. The school statute that has me scratching my head is what I will call the “60 Rule.” Teachers at my school are not allowed to give a student a grade lower than a 60 for any quarter regardless of the grade they earn. If a student earns a 15, a 6 or a 34 (all real examples for me this quarter), I have to put a 60 in the grade column. I am okay with this policy in quarters one and two — often students realize that they have made some poor choices and can turn around their performances in the second half of the year. But in the third and especially the fourth quarters, I have trouble with this rule.
Here is the problem. If a student earns an 85 in quarter one and an 84 in quarter two and gets an 80 on the midterm, then he is set for the rest of the year. A 70 is passing in my school and if we average the first semester’s 83 with second semester’s mandatory 60, the student passes the year – even if he or she does nothing for the second semester. Doesn’t seem right, does it? While he only did half the work, he is getting credit for the whole year.
My principal will argue that to give less than a 60 is disproportionately punishing students. A 60 is a failing grade. Putting a zero in the grade book is like giving the student a negative 60 – less than zero. He continues to argue that we should not stop a student from passing a class because he or she did not do one large, significant project (my required business plan, for example, which is the culminating activity for the year and due in quarter four). Is this a hill to die on? If they did three-quarters of the work and did it proficiently, why shouldn’t they pass the class?
What I tell my principal is that as a business teacher, I teach more than supply and demand and marketing. I teach responsibility, employability skills, employer expectations, work ethic and leadership. Somehow, with this “60 Rule,” I feel like I am losing something significant, like the lesson being taught is that three-quarters is good enough – why do more when less will do? I have a reputation as a demanding teacher, however; I have worked for some very demanding employers who make me look like a cream puff. Three quarters was never good enough. As a manager in the hospitality industry, I have fired people for much less. One “no call, no show” and you were history in my restaurant. I did not care if the employee showed up the other three quarters of the time. I needed him all the time.
So what are the lessons we teach? Does it all come from the state or national standards? Or is there something more? As I go into the late summer and fall, my school is putting together a grading committee to look at the issue from all sides. I look forward to participating in the discussion and putting in my two cents from the business department.