She favors new Franklin grading practice

Published 7:56 am Saturday, October 8, 2011

by Carrie Johnson

I wholeheartedly support the idea of maintaining a 60 as the lowest recordable grade for students, and I hope the School Board supports the Franklin City Public Schools administration’s decision on Oct. 11.

For those who believe that raising a lower failing grade to a 60 will somehow cause a child to pass or give an unfair “boost” to their grade-point average, please stop to consider this: If a child fails five assignments and five grades of 60 are recorded, the average is still failing.

However, if a child passes four out of five assignments with average grades and then fails a fifth assignment with a 35, the statistical result is a below-average grade. How can we say that 80 percent of class work that is done to average standards and 20 percent of class work that is done at a non-passing rate is equivalent to below average?

Those of you who went on to college, think of how grade-point averages are determined. Letter grades are given a point value, and those point values are consistently spread out across the scale.

By doing so, a failing grade cannot “over” impact the entire grade-point average because it is weighted evenly with the other marks. In Franklin’s scale, any grade below a 70 is failing; therefore, there are 69 failing marks a student can earn (70 if you include a zero).

It seems to me that the more accurate way of averaging out the grades would be to have a “floor” grade that is the same point spread as the other grades, which would actually be a 63.

Furthermore, I would like to counter School Board Chairman Bill Scarboro’s comment, “Children need to learn to fail.”

Mr. Scarboro, learn your demographics. For a great deal of your population, failure is all they know. Our children need to taste success. You and your board have grandiose ideas of how it should be in the “real” world, but I don’t think you really know what the “real” world is for some of your students. Know your audience.

I am not an advocate for lowering standards — at all — but I am a huge proponent of recognizing personal growth and individual achievement. It seems rather egocentric of the board to impose global economy competition goals upon our students when we should be celebrating that many of them might be the first generation of high school graduates in their families.

I, for one, am proud of that, and if we can help to make them productive, taxpaying members of society, it’s a start. So why would anyone want to impose a grading structure on a child that makes it nearly impossible to overcome a bad day?

Those are the students we need to reach. Those are the students who might push just a little bit harder if they see there is a chance for improvement. What incentive is there for a student who cannot statistically bring his or her grade up because of a skewed grading scale? How many have you already lost?

And while I commend the board members on the many hours they may put into the school system, if they are so far removed from the classroom as their actions over the past year or so seem to imply, perhaps it is time to relinquish their positions to people who have our teachers and students in mind instead of the rest of the world. Put Franklin first; the rest will follow.

CARRIE JOHNSON is an academic instructor and tester/evaluator for the Virginia Department of Correctional Education. She taught adults and middle school students for Franklin Public Schools and has three children at S.P. Morton Elementary School. She can be reached at