Wrongheaded change

Published 9:48 am Friday, September 23, 2011

Only in the weird world of modern public education — where teachers and administrators are judged entirely on standardized-test scores and dropout rates — can a student show up completely unprepared for class, take a wild guess at his test answers or scribble incoherent thoughts in an essay, and be guaranteed a grade of 60 on a 100-point scale.

Franklin Public Schools administrators implemented that radical policy this fall without even the courtesy of informing school board members and parents of the change.

School board members are rightly frustrated and should put an immediate hold on the new policy until it is thoroughly discussed and debated by board members, parents and other stakeholders at a public forum.

We give Superintendent Michelle Belle credit for her candor in explaining the change when quizzed by school board members last week. She said the policy is designed to reduce Franklin High School’s dropout rate, which has gotten the city schools in hot water with state and federal education bureaucrats in recent years.

Instead of figuring out why kids aren’t learning, the Franklin administration has chosen an easier, convenient path: Lower the bar enough to push kids through the system and hand them diplomas they haven’t earned just so the schools can get accredited by the bureaucrats. Never mind the disservice being done to the students, who will go unprepared into college or the workforce and discover, sadly, that there are no guaranteed 60s in life, that every point is earned through hard work.

We empathize with school educators and administrators. The pressure to meet state and federal standards is greater than ever, and schools get little cooperation these days from parents at home.

Still, the new Franklin grading policy is an overreaction. Surely there’s a better way to keep kids in school and teach them enough to give them a fighting chance at becoming productive citizens.