## Even a stopped clock is right half the time

Pittsburgh Public Schools officials say they want to give struggling children a chance, but the district is raising eyebrows with a policy that sets 50 percent as the minimum score a student can receive for assignments, tests and other work....

While some districts use "F" as a failing grade, the city uses an "E."

"The 'E' is to be recorded no lower than a 50 percent, regardless of the actual percent earned. For example, if the student earns a 20 percent on a class assignment, the grade is recorded as a 50 percent," said the memo from Jerri Lippert, the district's executive director of curriculum, instruction and professional development, and Mary VanHorn, a PFT vice president.

In each subject, a student's percentage scores on tests and other work are averaged into a grade for each of the four marking periods. Percentages for marking periods later are averaged into semester and year-end grades.

A student receives an "A" for scores ranging from 100 percent to 90 percent, a "B" for scores ranging from 89 percent to 80 percent, a "C" for scores ranging from 79 percent to 70 percent, a "D" for scores ranging from 69 percent to 60 percent and an "E" for scores ranging from 59 percent to the cutoff, 50 percent. ...

the 50 percent minimum gives children a chance to catch up and a reason to keep trying. If a student gets a 20 percent in a class for the first marking period, Ms. Pugh said, he or she would need a 100 percent during the second marking period just to squeak through the semester.

"We want to create situations where students can recover and not give up," she said, adding a sense of helplessness can lead to behavior and attendance problems.

Source, via Best of the Web. Italics added in that last sentence: Do you think that might be the real issue here? That teachers are responding to difficult students who take some weeks off from working on a course and then expect to get a do-over?

Of course this works in the other direction. A student has 78% after three marking periods. If he obtains a zero in the last marking period he fails the class; under Pittsburgh's rule he ends up with 71. A C for zero work. Students respond to incentives.

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