Texas Judge Says No to Minimum-Grading Policies

By Erik W. Robelen — June 29, 2010 1 min read
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A state judge yesterday upheld Texas’ truth-in-grading law, reports the Dallas Morning News. In doing so, she rejected arguments by nearly a dozen school districts contending that they could still require teachers to give minimum grades on student report cards.

According to state District Judge Gisela Triana-Doyal, the Texas law enacted last year is clear that districts can’t enforce policies that require a minimum grade for students—such as a 50, 60, or 70—regardless of how they performed on report cards, class assignments, and homework, the story explains.

Eleven Houston-area districts filed a lawsuit against the state last year, arguing that the new law applies only to class assignments and not to progress reports or semester report cards.

I imagine a lot of readers might be scratching their heads, wondering why a school district would want to have a policy in place to inflate grades in this way. Well, proponents argue that the policies help keep some kids in school.

“The Texas School Alliance, representing the state’s large, urban districts, said many of its members shifted to minimum grades to provide a “safety net” for students at risk of dropping out,” the story explains. “If a student has no chance of making up a poor grade, he or she is more likely to give up on a class and cause disciplinary problems or drop out of school, the alliance says.

Incidentally, the Texas AFT joined the lawsuit in opposition to the districts. Here’s an article on the group’s website about the development.

“Texas AFT member Mary Roberts, a veteran teacher from Humble ISD (one of the 11 plaintiff districts) testified forcefully that her district’s local policy compels her to give inaccurate, unearned grades to students who earn less than a 50 average for an entire grading period,” the article says. “This practice is wrong in principle, Roberts said, because it devalues real effort and achievement. There are much better ways to help students get back on track academically without awarding them academic credit they have not earned, she testified.”

Last fall, the Dallas Morning News published an editorial on the subject that doesn’t mince words: “Are you sitting down? Seriously, get this: Some Texas school districts have gone to court attempting to strike down a new state law that requires that a student’s grades actually mean what they say.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.