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When an F Is an Automatic 50: In Defense Of Matanzas High School’s Grading Policy

| September 8, 2013

The Breakfast Club would endorse it.

The Breakfast Club would endorse it.

By Jo Ann Nahirny

I almost failed algebra as a freshman in high school. I struggled largely because my mother experienced serious health problems that same year and my father was a policeman working rotating, round-the-clock shifts in Newark, N.J. Missing work was not an option. So as the oldest child, whenever my mother was hospitalized, I stayed home from school to care for my youngest sister.

At one point I missed three weeks of school to assist at home.  I somehow managed to keep up in all my classes–except algebra. Mathematical concepts build upon previously learned ones. Missing critical lessons, as the material grows increasingly more complex, creates knowledge gaps that can quickly overwhelm even the best students.

Sister Marjorie Sweeny (of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Penn.) taught my Algebra I class. A brilliant, faith-filled yet stern “no nonsense” woman, she based our final grade on the scores we attained on major unit tests each semester. Returning to her class after an absence, I learned a test was just around the corner. I went for after-school help, and asked my friends to explain how to solve linear equations, but I still floundered. Esoteric quadratics, binomials, and polynomials baffled me. I’d simply missed too much instruction.

The Nahirny Files:

By the end of the term, we’d taken two tests. I’d earned a disheartening 15 percent on the first. When mother finally recovered enough for me to return to school, I did whatever I could to catch up, and somehow scored a miraculous 90 percent on the second. But it didn’t matter. Back then, you needed a 70 percent to pass a class. I didn’t stand a chance. Mathematically challenged though I was, I knew the average of 90 and 15 only came to 52.5, a far cry from the 70 required.  It hardly seemed fair. I’d gone from  “F” on the first test to “A” on final one.  Why was my average still an F? Why wasn’t the average of “A” and “F” a “C”?

When I got my year-end report card, I trembled as I opened the envelope. No one in my family had failed a class…until now. Summoning the courage to face the inevitable, my eyes scanned the grades. Algebra: 70.  I’d passed?

How?  Why? Sister Marjorie couldn’t have made an error. She was a math teacher. She’d never make such a basic computational error, not the detail oriented, God-fearing soul  she was. What happened?

I plodded back to the century-old brick building on the corner of Heller Parkway and Woodside Avenue. I found her tidying up the classroom, yellow chalk dust streaking her hands and flowing black habit.

“Sister Marjorie?” I asked timidly.


“I… um… I think, maybe, well, my grade is wrong on my report card.”

I cringed, waiting for the wrath I expected would befall me for daring to imply she’d made a mistake. (Has she packed up that yardstick yet?  I wondered.)

“It is?” she asked quizzically…but not angrily. “Let me see.”

She scanned the report card.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“How did I pass?”

“You worked hard and didn’t give up.  Go home and show your parents your report card. I’ll see you in September.”

More than 35 years later, I will never forget how much that event impacted my life. And only after I became a teacher myself did I comprehend how she’d calculated my grade and how I’d passed (but more on that in a moment).

I returned to Sister Marjorie’s math class the following year. Not wanting to disappoint her,  I grew confident and determined, even earning an A in geometry — and in almost everything else. I loathed math, yet she still recommended me for Algebra 2. And though I requested an easier elective to ensure a stress-free senior year, she stuck me in pre-calculus anyway, warning, “You’ll need it for college.”

I wound up graduating at the top of the class. As valedictorian, I garnered multiple scholarship offers.  Had I received that “F” in Algebra I  “deserved” that first year, some of those positive things likely wouldn’t have occurred.  My life may have turned out much differently without the full scholarship which enabled me to get the college education my parents could never have afforded. That, and far more, came my way, courtesy of my class rank and GPA…and Sister Marjorie’s mathematical common sense and practical foresight.

Matanzas High School Principal Chris Pryor. (© FlaglerLive)

Matanzas High School Principal Chris Pryor. (© FlaglerLive)

This memory came flooding back recently when Chris Pryor, the principal of Matanzas High School, where I’ve taught since the school first opened in 2005, implemented a new policy:  the value of an  “F” at Matanzas from now on will be 50 to 59 percent. In other words, the lowest grade a student can receive on any assignment is 50.

When he announced this at a faculty meeting shortly before the school year started, I sat silently, listening to the whispered comments of some of my colleagues and friends. I probably should have spoken up then, but didn’t, because I sensed they needed time to process it all, to digest it.

To be honest, there have been times when I have not agreed with Pryor. And as the presence of my op-ed pieces on FlaglerLive so clearly attest, I sometimes disagree with impractical and inane district or state mandates.

But this time, I got it. I even understood, mathematically speaking (thanks in no small part to Sister Marjorie) what Pryor was getting at. Currently, students receive an “A” for scores of 90-100,  “B” for 80-89,  “C” for 70-79,  “D” for 60-69 and F for…. 0 to 59? Why is the “band” for each grade from A to D a narrow, 10-point spread, but so wide for F? If you follow it sequentially, shouldn’t “F” logically equate to 50 to 59?

The policy Pryor enacted made sense to me because I’d already essentially been doing this for a few years.  For example, I teach AP English Language & Composition and SAT Prep. Many components of these two classes include assignments to help students practice and prepare for these weighty exams–exams that will determine whether they get into college, earn college credits or get Bright Futures scholarships.

When students complete a practice reading passage in my class, they’ll never receive a score of less than 60–even if they only get one question right out of 15.  Why?  Because it’s practice. Why should I penalize someone for practicing and preparing for the real AP exam? I want to encourage them to try harder, not discourage them. I want them to learn.

Similarly, when students do sentence completion (vocabulary) questions in SAT Prep, I award 50 percent of the points just for doing them.  For example, if  directions call for them to complete 10 vocabulary questions, I score this 20-point assignment by awarding 10 points for doing the work, and one point for each correct response. So if a student answers five out of 10 questions correctly, he doesn’t get a grade of 50, he earns 75, or “C”  — 10 points for doing the 10 practice questions, plus five points for the five they got right: 15/20 = 75.

Why do I it this way?

It’s quite simple. When students take the AP English exam in May 2014, they can pass by answering only about 50 percent of the questions correctly. On the SAT, students can attain a  “college ready” score by answering only half the questions right, and  can achieve an outstanding score with just 75 percent right. Why wouldn’t I align my scoring with the College Board’s?

When students write impromptu essays for my English class, I grade them exactly the way the College Board scores them, on a scale of 1 to 9. (I  know how it works because I score real AP English essays for the College Board every summer.) To correlate this numerical score to an actual  “grade” that will sync with Flagler’s Skyward electronic grade book,  a  “9” on an essay equates to 95, 8 represents 90, 7 = 85… all the way down to 1, which in my book, equals a grade of 55 percent — the lowest score a student can possibly earn on any “practice” essay in my classroom.  What need would I have to record anything any lower?

What if they don’t do it you ask. Well, it’s true that  even if a student doesn’t submit the essay, he or she still gets 50 percent. But that’s an “F.”  Some view that as giving the student half credit or giving something for doing nothing. I see it as the student still getting the merited “F.”

Sister Marjorie, God rest her soul, taught me a lot about math…enough to ask probing questions –questions like why a student should have a 60 percent chance of earning an F, but only an 11 percent chance of earning an A, a 10 percent chance of attaining a B, and so on. Why are the odds so heavily weighted in favor of a student getting an F?

Sister Marjorie knew it wasn’t fair, and was mathematically savvy enough to have discovered decades ago the wisdom of weighting all her F’s as 50. My  earned 90  test score + a 50 (in lieu of 15) equaled 140 divided by 2 = 70 percent. That’s how I passed Algebra.  Or did I “deserve” to fail? Which grade best represented what I accomplished that term?  A 52.5?  Or a 70?

Perhaps it’s better to give students a fighting chance to recover from a setback or a mistake… and yes, maybe even from unwise choices or downright laziness.

Why not show them they still have absolute value rather than make them feel like absolute zero?

Jo Ann C. Nahirny, a 1985 graduate of Columbia University and a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches English at Matanzas High School in Palm Coast. Reach her by email here.

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43 Responses for “When an F Is an Automatic 50: In Defense Of Matanzas High School’s Grading Policy”

  1. Karen Duffy says:

    Excellent column.

  2. brian says:

    are you kidding me? you dont do the work you should get a 0..thats what you exceptions..PERIOD

  3. Jeff Kuske says:

    This makes a lot of sense. Wish they had done this when I was in school.

  4. PCer says:

    I can understand if a student is legitimately sick or has an excused absence and does not turn in an assignment for 50%. However, if they are simply being defiant or lazy and do not complete an assignment, it should be a zero. They dug the whole all by themselves, they can dig themselves out of it. What are we teaching students by giving them 50% for choosing to do nothing? Even in FLVS, where students can resubmit assignments numerous times for full credit, if they choose not to do an assignment, they get a zero. What about cheating? If a student copies another student’s exam, do they still get a 50%? If a student copies research from the internet, do they still get 50%? What about final exams, where students are supposed to PROVE mastery? If they only get 1 out of 20 questions correct, do you still give them 50%? How is that doing the student justice? How is that being accountable to the taxpayers when we are just pushing the students through the system? Giving students 50% does not teach them anything except they can slack off and get away with it. It is sad that at least 1 school in Flagler County has succumbed to the philosophy that every child gets a trophy.

  5. michelle says:

    What happens when a student consistently doesn’t do the work? Or only does half of the assignments? They can still pass even though they only did 1/2 of the work. I think a 50% if the student has attempted the assignment and a zero if they have put forth zero effort.

  6. RMD says:

    Dr. Chris Pryor was quoted in the Palm Coast Observer on August 30, 2013 as saying: “It’s completely inequitable,” Pryor said, referring to the four-point system. With his half-credit philosophy, he said, “People think we’re giving them something for doing nothing, but no, we’re giving them an F, but we’re still giving them a chance to dig themselves out of the hole they’ve dug.” This man should be removed from his position. No one with this philosophy belongs in any position of responsibility for anyone. The same goes for anyone who supports this concept. During the first 17 to 19 years of a young person’s life they are required to attend school and they are required to obtain a satisfactory mastery of the skills and lessons taught therein. The notion that it should not only be acceptable but mandated that if a student does not have a minimal understanding of an instructed concept or practice but still should receive credit for that failure is not only ridiculous but insulting to the thousands of students, past, present , and future that attend school in Flagler County. Why are we accepting mediocrity as the new norm? Since when did the pedagogy or paradigm of education shift to encourage students not to strive to be the best they can be? Now they are being taught it is OK to choose not to turn in an assignment because they can still get half credit for it. They are being taught that “It is OK for me to take off this assignment and be lazy, after all I will still get a 50%”. I can only pray that a doctor does not choose to “get lazy” when performing surgery or even a simple exam. Who knows what small lump or sore spot could be get missed. But I supposed that would be alright, I mean even if that doctor does not try, I am sure they will get at least 50% of the cancer in a person’s body, right? After all that is what you are teaching our children. As for the author of the above article, Mrs. Nahirny, I would tell you that your situation was unique and I know, as well as you, that there are situations and appeals for hardships all the time in our school system statewide and these cases are handle one at a time. It should never be a blanket policy mandated by a principal. I have met with and worked with Dr. Chris Pryor. He should be replaced as soon as possible.

    • trish says:

      Dr, Pryor is a true professional who cares.. 50= 59 is the true progression… no one is saying chidren who do nothing will get a 50… the policy is to protect children who do their best with what God gave them to work with getting at least 50% for their efforts…

      I taught for 19 years in flagler county in grade school. Try looking into the eyes of a child who has given it their all and gotten 0 for their efforts..

      As usual all those not involved are reading what they want and not what it says and have no clue as to the consequences or out comes…

      Brian, he’s talking about people who do the work… not the ones who turn in nothing…

      • PCer says:

        A parent could argue that their child answered 1 out of 20 questions on their math homework. They did “something” so should they get 50% for only attempting 5% of the work?

      • Concerned Mother of 3 says:

        He is not protecting children. He is blocking them from the reality of life and how to cope. Try to look into the eyes of a child who has worked hard and earned a 60. How about the one that works hard and earns the A or B? How are their grades now valued? I have children on both spectrums of the scale and I believe they get what they EARNED! That is life!

  7. Flager County Teacher says:

    With all due respect to your personal situation, by your own admission, you worked hard and fell on unfortunate times. Skilled teachers know that and do what they can to alleviate those situations. We give alternate assignments; ask for things to be redone, etc. Your examples of practice are just that-practice. Even in sports, practice doesn’t count on one’s record so I question whether it should at school. My students are frequently told that perfect practice makes perfect performance. That is why we practice. I’m not sure that I grade practice pieces anyway. When I do, as you say, half of the credit is for just trying. I agree that it is more than fair.
    What about those who really need extra help and won’t be entitled to it unless MTSS shows a true pattern of failure. Sometimes we are sparing the feelings in the short term and hurting them in the long term.
    What about those who choose not to work at all? I respectfully ask you to consider should you or I get half pay for just showing up to work? What about those who will then hand in the lowest quality work just to get that 50 because they know they can do well enough on a test to make the average? Now, in that scenario one might say give it back and have it redone. I’ve tried, it doesn’t usually work. Especially with the point system we use and the grade book so readily accessible in skyward. Kids seem to know just what the threshold is to pass. (I think Skyward parent/student access is wonderful by the way.)
    There is no simple solution here. If we are truly preparing students for adult life, then I ask you to consider don’t adults meet with failure? What do we learn from it? Hopefully,( perhaps with guidance of a teacher,) we rethink a situation, ask for help, or find another path. Isn’t that what we really want children to learn?

  8. Florida Native says:

    The Breakfast Club photo was cute. Too bad the Flagler County school system isn’t.

  9. Genie says:

    Why not show them they still have absolute value? Because they didn’t earn it.

    Mrs. Nahirny, I know that you are an excellent teacher, and I always enjoy your articles. However, your circumstances were unusual and Sister Marjorie knew that. You were the exception. Every teacher is going to find exceptions. The real point is are you trying? Was there a special circumstance? These are the things that good teachers understand and deal with.

    But I still don’t agree with this policy. I doesn’t help to graduate students that are falling so far behind that they can’t do the work. And it rewards for something that isn’t earned. That isn’t going to be the case in college or in the real world.

  10. Reaganomicon says:

    This has been a very hard comment to write, because there is so much wrong with the above article that I don’t even know where to start.

    This policy, to use kind words, is dumb, nearsighted, and does not do your students any favors whatsoever regarding future college or job pursuits. I think the entire article can be summarized by a quote that you attributed to Sister Marjorie after you asked her about your passing with a 70, which was:

    ““You worked hard and didn’t give up. Go home and show your parents your report card. I’ll see you in September.”

    I teach at a university, and at the end of every semester it is a given to hear the following from students that didn’t get an ‘A’, or a ‘B’, or even pass: “But I worked hard, I want extra credit so I can pass/get a better grade.” The reason why they ask that is because they’re correlating effort with the grade, not correct work with the grade, and I always cast a mental middle finger in the direction of the nearest highschool because of this.

    Giving the ‘F’ a 10 point spread instead of the traditional 0-59 one because it should “logically equate to 50 to 59” due to the 10 point spread of other letter grades is complete crap. You are overlooking the following fact: 0-59 is failure, 60-100 isn’t. This fact means that Suzie Darling Snowflake isn’t rewarded for a job well done when she chooses to text away for most of a semester, only to somehow magically pull out of a downwards spiral because she knows that the least trivial “effort” will be rewarded. She needs to be competent enough to perform 60% of her task correctly in order to get a non-failing mark on it, you know, like the rest of the real world.

    To use a real world example, suppose that you are a surgeon and your patient needs a triple bypass. Instead, you spend hours and hours removing the appendix. You do not get rewarded for your effort, you get sued for malpractice: job not well done. This, of course, presumes that your student is equipped to become a surgeon, which they won’t even have a chance to be until they shrug off the grade entitlement due to inflation that they experienced in k-12, and quickly associate learning and understanding the material with the grade. And did you see the word I used up there? “Chance?” That’s because they might fail at it because they aren’t equipped for it, which is another thing they will have to learn since they aren’t getting it in public school.

    So, allow me to thank you for nothing, which is exactly what this approach is doing for many of the kids that pass through florida public schools.

    • I/M/O says:

      You teach at a university? Could you write an article about the total corruption in this nation’s universities? I just finished reading the article about how corrupt our university system and the college loan program has become in this month’s Rolling Stone magazine.

      How do you live with yourself knowing that each day millions of young people are “Enslaved” to a lifetime of debt to the government with these preposterous college loan programs and their variable interest rates?

      We would all like to read a first hand account of this scandal. So please get back to us quickly.

      • Reaganomicon says:

        Here’s a firsthand account. It took me 14 years to pay off my student loans because of exactly what’s in that article, and I have a colleague with over 150k of Sallie Mae debt that he is never going to pay off. Because of this, on the first day of class, when I’m talking about the syllabus and grades, I specifically mention those facts and also the fact that you never borrow the maximum and you can’t default away from your student loans. That’s how I live with it, I encourage people to use the community college system and avoid the 4 year aspect as long as they can. You’ll get no argument from me about how the administration sucks off the federal teat and screws students and faculty in the process.

  11. brian says:

    when is the givaway for the laptops? another moronic idea..

  12. tom jack says:

    It is administrations like this that lower the bar for everyone and teachers like this that support that lowered expectations that are the cause of our crumbling society as a whole. Why not give a C for not doing the work? Maybe a B if the student has an excuse, After all according to this article if you just try you should pass right. When these students get into the work world they will expect raises and promotions because, hey I showed up. Lets see Mrs. Nahirny succeed in any other area but academics with this attitude. A well educated and HARD working populace is critical in the modern world. Our children are competing against the entire world and I guarantee other countries do not tolerate giving half credit just for showing up. This attitude is the reason we as a country are slipping in world competitiveness and standard of living.

  13. BW says:

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions. As the saying goes, and for good reason.

    Your personal scenario and a decision by that teacher taking extraordinary situations into account is not at all the same things as a blanket policy to award ALL students that do nothing. In my opinion this 50% for nothing falls in line with the “everyone gets a trophy” philosophy. Less structure and less boundaries are not solutions to student performance. Interestingly enough of the 14/15 multi-million locations I went into manage, employees typically ranked “not enough discipline and accountability” as the top complaint especially when it was a problem location.

    We are so concerned that a child facing accountability and possibly “feeling bad” will negatively impact them forever. Yes, it will BUT that doesn’t mean not in a positive. way. People often grow from their failures and are better for it especially when there are good leaders around them guiding them. In fact you “helping” someone far far less by providing them a false sense that they are not accountable and as a blanket policy for the entire student body you all are setting a very poor precedence.

    Taking individual circumstances into account and making rational decisions based upon extraordinary situations is not a bad thing and no one is debating that. Creating a blanket policy that teaches students not to take personal accountability for that which they choose not to do is wrong no matter which way you try to sell it.

  14. Yellowstone says:

    I, too, taught secondary – Physics and Chemistry!

    All tests were difficult and required discipline to pass. Admittedly it was a lot easier to fail than to pass.

    So, I’d often say, “You get 50% for just signing your name, putting today’s correct date, and completing these questions – right or wrong.”

    To those that studied hard it seemed disheartening to see others slip by. But those thoughts passed quickly as those same kids competed for the rarer air of superlative grades. Kids argued with me about the ‘real’ difference between tenths of a point. They were the true scholars.

    Those that didn’t care, did nothing (not even take time to legitimately withdraw), and were among those 50 to 60% who drop out and never graduate from public school.

    Students who quit are those who do not challenge the insurmountable odds. The way I see it, it was choice they made to fail.

    My last year out of 180 students, more than half scored above 90 in their finals.

    It was their choice then . . . And life offers the same choice today: Ask yourself, “Do you want to pass or fail?”

  15. Mr. Consistent says:

    If you are going to use this at one school then it should be for all. This district lets the schools run the show. Let’s see a presentation with the facts to the board and have them vote on it. This is what the board is supposed to be doing. Either way it should be the same for all the kids.

  16. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    I can appreciate both sides of this argument, but ultimately I think the policy is a good one. If a student bombs the first test, and then becomes mathematically incapable of passing the class, by all logic they should simply quit. That means they either stop coming, or they become extremely disruptive, because after all they have no chance of passing anyway. Is that really what we want? What’s the worse case scenario under this policy? A slacker somehow milks the system and squeaks by with a D instead of an F? I don’t like the idea of giving someone who makes no attempt whatsoever half credit, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m okay with it if it gives other students with real hardships at least the hope of still being able to pass the class and progress forward.

  17. tampanative says:

    One of the major ways our society determines success in school is a person’s GPA. You get 4 points for an A, 3 points for a B, 2 points for a C, 1 point for a D and 0 points for an F. This is the same premise this grading system is working on. If you equated the percent to a letter grade like figuring out a person’s GPA this grading system does make sense. In most colleges it works the same way. It does not matter what percent an A is as long as it is a 90 or above you get an A. A student who is not going to school, or turning in assignments or paying attention to the lessons will most likely do poorly no matter what grading system the school or district adopts. To get a 0 back to an average requires a 100 on 10 successive grades. Would you many of you consider that fair?

    • I/M/O says:

      Could I suggest you go back and read what this Teacher wrote. She was obviously a great student but problems in her personal life for just a short period of time resulted in her ability to learn and study becoming totally disrupted. What she is saying is that her structured environment at home was disrupted. Her ability to concentrate was disrupted . Because of her family situation she was taken out of her role as a student and placed in the role of being the “Adult” in the family.

      I am so very glad she remembers her own personal story.

      How many young people go into school each day coming out a crisis home situation. The reason for problems in their lives doesn’t matter; the results of their home crisis environment is what matters. We ask them to learn complicated subject matter that require intense concentration while they sit there is silence thinking about the crisis at home and wonder why their lives are not the same as their classmates and friends.

      Yes the photo of the Breakfast Club is so very appropriate here. The psychological and sociological theories the writers put into that script is what made that movie so amazing. But to those who think teaching is simply about grades and who cannot comprehend the psychology of the Breakfast Club I suggest they rent the movie an Officer and A Gentleman. Now there is another movie with very deep psychological and sociological theories displayed in a film.

      Children in crisis. As the recruit Mayo says to his drill Sergeant who wants to throw him out of the Navy program “Don’t you do that I have no place else to go…I have no place else to go.”

      Dr. Pryor and Ms. Niharny a seasoned professional educators who know the last defense before losing a child in crisis is the schools. “They have no place else to go.” Except maybe a prison.

      No child chooses the family they are born into. No child asks for the problems that affect their young lives. Very seldom can others fix that family or problems for them. But we as a society can offer them a structured and safe environment in a school and “Surrogate Adult l Role Models” with Teachers such as Dr. Pryor and Ms. Nahirny. We can try. We have to try. We have to give the schools the means to try.

      • tampanative says:

        I/M/O obviously you missed my point. I am saying that this grading system is set up for just what you and Mrs. Niharny is stating. If a student is going through distress at any point in their schooling their grades will suffer in most circumstances. Hopefully, those challenges are alleviated or recognized by the teachers and school administrations. This grading system will help those students who went through such problems. What I stated is that the students who do not care about school, don’t want to be there, and want to text on their phones and engage in social media while in class will struggle no matter the grading policy.

  18. I/M/O says:

    There is no doubt in my mind that Sister Marjorie knew exactly what was going on in Ms. Nahirny life way back when and that she also knew her students. Who wanted to learn and who did not.

    They never said a lot to their students but the Nuns and Brothers were pretty adept at figuring out the personal lives and family situations of their students.

  19. Lawrin says:

    Slackers enter their adult lives as Slackers. They progress thru their mid lives as Slackers. The continue into their elderly years as Slackers…Hence, we have 47 million Slackers on welfare and food stamps. You SNOOZE you LOSE !!!!!

  20. Out of Curiosity says:

    So how does this work with the county’s policy of not giving credit for work missed on a day when the student has an unexcused absence?

  21. village voice says:

    Sorry, I see this as justification for some teachers to settle for “F” (possibly allowing them to game the system in order to keep their jobs) from their students rather than motivate them to aspire to higher standards/achievements. Accepting mediocre breeds mediocrity, and should be culled.

  22. Nancy N. says:

    Johnny Taxpayer hit it right on the head…if a student struggles in the first part of a class, under the “get a 0 for an F system” there is no incentive for them to work hard to improve because they are mathematically excluded at some point from getting anything other than a failing grade. So why try?

    This is of special concern to me, because my 10 year old daughter is autistic and just starting to work toward being mainstreamed. She has communication difficulties that interfere with her learning. There will be times when she struggles because of this. It’s unavoidable. A bumpy period should not have to equal her failing a class because some adjustments needed to be made to her classroom supports! She should be given the ability to work hard and make that back up.

  23. Nancy N. says:

    I am frustrated reading these comments that commenters are repeatedly bashing kids who receive low grades as screw-ups who aren’t trying. Even good students can have difficulty with a specific subject that just doesn’t process well for them. I was an honors student, got a 32 on the ACT, and earned a National Merit Scholarship, but struggled horribly in Algebra. Could NOT get my brain wrapped around those concepts. (Which is why I now have a BA in Communications). Kids should not be punished for struggling, and put into a hole they have no hope of climbing out of.

    Somewhere along the way some of you seem to have gotten the idea that education is a war between educators and students, with grades the territory to be fought over. You seem to think that giving a 50 is giving up turf somehow in that battle.

    Education is not a war to be fought against each other but a journey to be taken together, with the destination of instilling learning. Giving a 50 for failing is still failing but it still leaves room for redemption, the creation of a better future. And isn’t that what education is supposed to be all about – a better future?

  24. Stefano Schibeci says:

    As an Honors and Ap Student at Matanzas, I can understand where people can both reap the benefits and take advantage of this policy. The student continues to recieve an “F” reflected as a 0 or a 50, but the number is very deciding in the grade book. For an overwrought student that studied and worked hard on notes for the lesson, but failed the test can now recieve a 50 and not just that one score that decides either a “B” or an “A” in the class. At school, a twenty in the grade book decimated my grades. That one score of twenty doesn’t have to haunt me for the rest of the semester because a 50 isn’t as drastic as the twenty was in the grade book. On the other hand, should a student that didn’t turn the work in or simply protested to do it get the 50? Where do we draw the line, if at all? Is the deciding factor on a valid excuse? How would teachers determine which excuses are valid? Students can and will take advantage of this policy whether they are lazy or don’t care. It leaves me confused on whether it’s a good policy overall or just to students that care and made a mistake. The equality of a policy this type is contradicting.

    • Genie says:

      @ Stefano:

      “The equality of a policy of this type is contradicting.” Yes, it is. I believe that is why most commenting here are opposed. Most good teachers do allow room for makeup work or judging students who don’t test well, but this policy takes those decisions out of the hands of the teachers and rewards those who won’t try. Congratulations on your scholastic efforts. They will be very helpful to you in your future studies and career.

      @ Nancy: This isn’t a war, but somewhere along the way we are failing our kids and it is not because of this policy or the views of those here. I don’t think teaching to a test does a child any favors. If that is the case, why do we need teachers? Children can just sit in a room and work on computers. Somehow I think that your daughter will do well with you as her mother.

  25. Nikia says:

    Sometimes What Seems To Be Defiance Or Laziness Is Really Something Else Like Untreated Adhd Or Emotional Factors. Just Because You Don’t Know What Is Going On In A Students Life Doesn’t Give You Ths Right To Judge Their Motivation Or Lack Thereof. The Best Teachers Teach With Understanding. Thank You For Writing This Article.

  26. science teacher says:

    I am a science teacher and have taught at both the college and high school level. Awarding a student half credit for work they didn’t even turn in is a load of crap. This means that kids won’t worry so much about not doing assignments because they can always bring up the overall grade later. Giving students points for doing nothing only adds to the overwhelming sense of entitlement that so many American kids have now. Kids, especially at the high school level for God’s sake, need to learn that there are real consequences for their choices. As an adult, will they receive half of their pay if they don’t report to work all week? No, they will receive a pink slip instead.

  27. Sherry Epley says:

    How is it that an failing score on “one” test could possibly destroy an entire semester grade and therefore lower a GPA?

    While I don’t have kids, and I’ve been out of school myself for a while, what ever happened to grades for class and home work? Pop quizzes? Make up tests? Extra credit projects?

    • Reaganomicon says:

      It won’t, because the standard rubric for a class as you pointed out depends upon a lot more than just one or two tests. The only one test scenarios that I am aware of are european system ivy league, where there’s a final in a class and that’s it.

  28. I/M/O says:

    From the very first time he appeared at his high school everybody thought he was weird. He always dressed in the Goth look. Always had his hair spiked. Couple of body piercings. Everywhere he went he carried that guitar case.

    He never spoke in class. Did the minimal amount of work. Had few friends. Was never a disciplinary problem. He just showed up each day, stayed to himself and carried that guitar case around with him. If he was asked about his life ambition he would simply say “My music.”

    4 years later his SAT scores came in. He had scored a perfect 1600. Needless to say the entire school was shocked. They never knew they a genius among them. They saw the boy as a weirdo.

  29. Palm Coast Mother says:

    I’m sorry to disagree with this, but teachers at MHS have been told that a paper turned in with nothing but the student’s name on it earns them a 50%. Why should my child struggle and study and receive a 70% on her test and the one sitting next to her that does nothing but put a name on the test get a 50%? If I didn’t do the work in high school, I got a zero, plain and simple. Teachers never weighted grades for me because “times were hard” I had plenty of hard times growing up as an Army Brat with my dad constantly gone. I didn’t do the work, I didn’t earn the grade. Stop babying these kids. That certainly isn’t going to happen if and when they get to college. That certainly isn’t going to happen when they are sitting on their rear ends doing nothing at work. No one is going to say “here you go” to the employee that does absolutely nothing and their only argument will be “but when I was in high school, I got a 50% for turning in my name!”

    Dr. Pryor claims these students aren’t being given “nothing” they are being given an F. I’m sorry… 50% is better than 0%. Give these kids what they deserve. You do the work, you get the grade.

  30. From a student's perspective says:

    I personally loved the article and having graduated from Matanzas a few years back, can tell you from a students position that, the students who do not put forth any effort will continue to not put forth effort, and the students who usually try but struggle with concepts such as math and science will have the opportunity to get a grade never before possible because when they do encounter hose few hard tests or concepts, the single grade will not cause their whole semester grade to plumet. If the student earns a 60% then that’s what they deserve. If they do not complete the assignment, they still receive an F. It would be rediculous if the student who did not complete the work or show up to class to pass. But that is not the case here. This new grading system was implemented to ensure the students who work hard and still struggle can get that D to a C, that B to an A. Everyone who is coming up with rediculous senarios, such as the students will stop doing the work, or answer only one question and expect to pass, that won’t suddenly happen to the students who care about their future and want to go to college. They will continue to work hard and the students who don’t turn in their assignments and think they can just get by will still fail or barely pass. This change in the grading system will help the students sincerely trying to succeed. It will do nothing for those expecting to do nothing., they will still fail.

  31. Bunnell Resident says:

    If I go to work and do nothing can I get half my salary? The mindset in this article is exactly what is wrong with this country. Always expecting something for nothing. In the end Matanzas is only fostering an environment of mediocrity that will ultimately harm the child and society as a whole. Even a good student can strategically blow off completing an assignment if they already have a strong grade without killing their grade. Don’t like doing term papers? No problem. To twist Nike’s slogan….. Just don’t do it!

  32. Someone says:

    This is the first year of school I barely do stuff. I don’t feel like doing it if I still get a grade for it. I just take the test and pass them and ironically have A’s and B’s. Why should I waste time and work hard on an assignment when someone who doesn’t do it still gets a grade?

  33. L Gussman says:

    Getting half credit is a bunch of nonsense. I believe that this is more about inflating grades which will in turn increase graduation rates and ensure more funding. It is cheating basically. If the kids are struggling and get a zero, they should be offered help to redo the assignment in order to EARN a grade and EARN their diploma. Offering such students additional support means that school with EARN the funding they get.

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