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No more failing grades?

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When I was a kid, my school report card graded my work as between an “A” and an “F.” It was pretty easy to know how you were doing in school. An “A” meant you were doing outstanding work, and an “F” meant you failed. You might even have to repeat the class, or even the entire school year. Now, some school districts, including in Madison, have scrapped the traditional grading scale in favor of a more friendly, gentler ranking. The new scale ranges from “EX” to “E.” Just what does that mean? “EX” means the student consistently exceeds grade-level expectations. “M” means meeting expectations, while “DV” means the student is approaching grade-level expectations. The lowest score, “E” means the student is beginning to show initial understanding of grade-level expectations. So in Madison, students don’t fail anymore. They apparently just haven’t reached their potential yet. The problem is these “grades” don’t really measure how a student is doing in math or science or reading during a specific period of time. Instead they measure progress relative to end of the year expectations. All of this is apparently designed to reduce the shame of students receiving a “D” or an “F.” But shouldn’t it be clear to students, and their parents, when they are failing a class? Shouldn’t it be a sign they should work harder if they want to succeed? That is a valuable lesson in life, but one which more schools are choosing not to teach.

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