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Grade deflation

Florida school officials would no longer be able to turn a blind eye to D's and F's when calculating whether students met the state's new, stricter graduation standards, under legislation awaiting the governor's signature.

When figuring grade point averages, some guidance counselors around the state have ignored marks of D and F in elective courses, provided that students have accrued the minimum graduation requirement of 25 credits. The measure would not allow them to be so forgiving.

"That was too lenient a grade-forgiveness policy," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the Democrat who sponsored the bill. She contended that school districts have been using the loophole to pad their graduation rates and give diplomas to borderline students. "That is not what students are going to get in college or in the job market," she said.

This spring, the state will start requiring students to have a GPA of 2.0, up half a point from the former 1.5 requirement, to graduate.

After a 1998 report in the Miami Herald detailed the effect that grade forgiveness was having on graduation rates in Broward County, Rep. Wasserman-Schultz discovered that courses such as Spanish were considered electives statewide and had been among those dropped from GPAs. "That's a pretty sensitive course," she said.

Under the legislation, which would take effect in the coming school year, students would still have a chance to raise their GPAs even if they had failed or received a D in a course. For required courses, students could retake the class or take a comparable one, and then have the lower of the two grades deleted from their records.

And if a student got a D or F in an elective course, including Spanish, a completely different course could be substituted, and his or her grade in that second course could replace the earlier mark.

—Michelle Galley

Vol. 19, Issue 35, Page 22

Published in Print: May 10, 2000, as State Journal

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