Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion Blog


Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform.

Education Opinion

Sunday NYT Celebrates a -ubious New Policy

By Rick Hess — August 09, 2010 2 min read

In its inimitable style, the New York Times yesterday featured a page one ed story celebrating an aimless new district policy and the superintendent responsible. In a story headlined “Little as They Try, Students Can’t Get a D Here,” NYT‘s Winnie Hu enthusiastically hailed the new “no D’s” policy adopted by New Jersey’s Mount Olive school district.

The notion is that, well, the district will no longer issue D’s. “D’s are simply not useful in society,” explained superintendent Larrie Reynbolds. While Mount Olive students could previously pass a class with a 65, and earn a D, they will now pass if they get over a 70. If students do get less than a 70, Mount Olive will henceforth allow students to repeat work or tests on which they fail to get a C. It will then provide tutoring and extra help to students who continue to fail. And students will make up a failed course by paying $150 per class to attend an evening school.

Surprising was that the editors put this on page one after reading the in-story quotes, which seemed to pretty clearly illustrate how vapid this deal is. Chris Radler, age 13, explained that he disliked the new policy because, “If you’re a little bit less than a C, but not quite an F, you’re still going to fail.” I can only imagine Hu hurriedly scribbling that gem down, saying, “Hold on, let me be sure I get that.” Sean Robinson, age 17, perplexingly told Hu, “Normally, I just wouldn’t try, but I feel like if I did badly, I’d bring down my school’s G.P.A. My mom will be happy.” I’ll admit, I spent five minutes trying to decipher Robinson’s take. Do 17-year-old’s really worry about bringing down their school’s GPA. If so, why? Is he more worried about it now than he was when D’s were legal tender? And what exactly will his mom be happy about?

Mount Olive’s new policy is likely to prove a pointless, distracting exercise. I’ll make a series of predictions right now. First, teachers seeking to avoid unnecessary headaches (and the wrath of parents) will issue a lot of C’s where they once would have issued D’s. Second, knowing that all papers can be rewritten and all tests retaken within three days, slacking students will put forth even less energy on the first go-round, figuring they’ll go ahead and then pull an all-nighter if they have to. Third, in order to avoid having to re-grade too many papers or arrange to make up new versions of the test and then re-administer it, teachers will loosen their grading policy or seek to dial back the amount of graded work. Fourth, some families will plead lack of funds when it comes to paying $150 for the evening make-up classes, forcing the district to adopt a hardship waiver and eat the cost.

A policy sure to create implementation challenges and headaches for faculty, only to ultimately prove pointless. What would possess Reynolds to do this? For one explanation, check out “policy churn” in my 1998 Brookings volume Spinning Wheels. What would prompt the Times to feature it on page one? That’s a question only the NYT can answer.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Clinical Director
Garden Prairie, IL, US
Camelot Education

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read