School administrators met Tuesday to discuss an overhaul of the Wake County grading system. This overhaul includes banning zeros as grades, granting the right to hand in late work for credit and allowing students to retake exams to get higher scores. Administrators claim the overhaul is meant to reflect what the students know, not how well they behave.
“The zero knocks kids out of the box,” Superintendent Jim Merrill said. “That is the dropout path.” I take issue with that statement. Students who receive zeros or below average grades aren’t on the dropout path simply because they receive bad grades. There’s more to the story than just bad grades. Most of these students are disengaged. This may lead back to their home life, their upbringing, or their lack of interest in school. Overhauling the grading system isn’t going to make these students become more engaged in school.
Administrators are considering setting 50 as the lowest grade a student can receive. Unless they change what’s considered failing as well, then a 50 is still an F. While a 50 may look better than a 0 on paper, it’s still an F on a report card. And if the administrators were to overhaul the letter grading where a 50 is considered a D, I would argue that’s not much better. Those in charge want to prepare students for a future that includes college of some sort. Unfortunately, colleges are more likely to turn down a D student.
If we ever expect to prepare students for their future then we need to start preparing them for reality. Zeros are a part of the real world and they can be a reality. Late work and retakes are not. Wake County Schools need to reflect that. Students need to become more engaged in school and that doesn’t start with overhauling the grading system.