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The Grade of D Needs to Indicate More than a Pulse

My town’s local school board just voted to change a decades old rule that required students to have a minimum C average in order to graduate: 2.0 on the 4.0 scale.Not anymore. Now it’s possible to graduate with the lowest possible average that counts as a D.Beginning with the 2008 school year, students will be permitted to graduate with a D average. Teachers vary, of course, as to what they require for the grade of D. For some, attendance and a pulse is enough.

In a previous article I defined the grades of A, B, C, D, and F according to what they often indicate and what they “should” indicate for the student of English. If the action of my local school board is any indication, teachers need to reevaluate the significance of the grade of D.

If a D average is “good enough” to permit a young person to obtain a high school diploma, then it ought to indicate some minimum of acquired learning.Previously I described the requirements for the grades of C and D in English as follows:

C : adequate mastery of the subject. For example, a C in English should indicate that the student is able to write complete sentences, spell basic vocabulary, and use grammatical structures correctly.D: some learning is taking place, but the minimum has not been mastered.

D: For the student of English, a D should indicate that the student may be doing the assigned work, but has not mastered basic grammar, composition, and spelling skills and lacks adequate reading skills.

In the light of what may prove to be a trend, I would alter these minimums as follows:

A GRADE OF C should indicate that the student is able to write a reasonably coherent composition of five or more paragraphs without faults of basic grammar, usage, or spelling.

A GRADE OF D in English should indicate that the student is able to write complete sentences, spell basic vocabulary, and avoid the most basic errors of verb and pronoun use: Ex. Him and me went to the movies; I have wrote a paper for English class. The D student in the 12th grade ought to be able to read fluently at least at an 8th grade level.

I do not fault my local school board for their decision. If the grade of D permits a student to pass a course, then it’s logical that a collection of Ds should be sufficient to earn a high school diploma.It is now up to teachers to see that a grade of D reflects a minimum amount of learning. Anything less will assure only that students who graduate with a D average leave school with a meaningless piece of paper and a false idea of their employability.

5 comments to The Grade of D Needs to Indicate More than a Pulse

  • Robert,
    Agreeing on terminology doesn’t seem to be as important to me as drafting a set of specific skills and concepts that have been mastered by the student before a teacher awards any letter grade.

    If students with D averages are going to be awarded high school diplomas, then a D average should reflect a standard of basic literacy (about 8th grade level).

  • A D should only be called a poor grade if a C average
    is required for graduation, otherwise it should be
    called a below average grade. Also, the standards
    should be raised to receive a D grade so that it is
    a low passing grade and not a high failing grade.

  • Back when I went to school in the sixties, a D was
    not called a “poor” grade until went to college.
    In k-12 schools, a D was either “below average”
    or “fair”, and in college a C was “fair”, and a D
    was “poor”. A “poor” D meant that you needed a C average to graduate, and a “below average” D meant
    that you could graduate with a D average. Today I
    hear that a D is called a “poor” grade in k-12
    schools now. It never used to be. Poor used to
    mean the same thing as failing in k-12 schools.

  • Amber Shockley

    As I sit in my classroom on a teacher work (meeting) day, wiping my nose that is red with (another) cold, I feel I must respond to your entry. I agree with what you article points out. Inexplicably, while student ability has been backsliding, grades have inflated. Actually, there is an explanation – I think it has something to do with the amount of pressure put on teachers to make the numbers look right, to satisfy parent demands that they’re student succeed without hurdle of any kind, and to answer the national mandate that every student move forward without regard to their actual progress. There is only one sentiment from your article that I would challenge. This is the idea that students who graduate without basic much less attractive skills for employment have a “false idea of their employability.” I think these students have quite an accurate idea of their employability, as employers seem to be making grand-scale accommodations for them, hiring individuals that are not qualified for their job “requirments,” so that they can have an employee with that “pulse” you mentioned, just as universities accept students who are nearly illiterate, then provide remediation classes so that these young people can continue to take out loans and pay their tuition.

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