Bad Idea: D.C. High School Drops F's

On the list of bad ideas, this has got to be near the top of the list.

Hey, we're doing away with standards in pretty much every facet of life, why not in school as well?

Aurelius at Pundit Press writes:
a school in Washington D.C. has decided to rid itself of failing grades.

Now, the 2,200 students at West Potomac High School are allowed to hand in papers whenever they wish and will not received a lower grade than others. In other words, if you turn in a paper two months late, you can still get an "A."

Not only that, but even if you get every single question wrong on a test or a quiz, you still do not receive an F. In fact, you can take it as many times as you like so long as you don't pass. If you get an A your tenth time, you get an A and only an A. Miss school? That's okay, you do not have to answer for it because the school "understands" that being a kid is tough.
So let's never mind all the wrong lessons this teaches the kids, just consider what this does to the college prospects of those kids who work hard ()or their grades. Think about it - any college that receives transcripts ()rom kids ()rom this high school will be tossed into the circular ()ile. Degrees ()rom that school will be essentially written on toilet paper.

By the school's refusal to ()ail students, the school is ()ailing its students.


  1. That is so ()reaking stupid! I suppose that's one way o() raising the graduation rate!

  2. Thank you for the link. Hopefully no other schools follow this one's example. We don't need our youth growing up believing it's okay to be lazy and still get everything they want.

  3. That's just preposterous.

    Clearly, that school is taking it to an extreme, but the mindset is not just pervading public schools. In our Archdiocesan school system 4 years ago, they did away with letter and number grades for kids in grades 1-3 they way the some of the public school districts have done in our state. They get an N (not performing), B (beginning to understand the concept), D (developing mastery), S (Secure), or E (exceeds). When they were making the change, the principal explained that the change was coming down from the Secretary for Catholic Education's office because many public schools were going this way. I think the idea is to keep kids' feelings from getting hurt. But you know what, kids are getting hurt feelings if they're getting Bs and Ds anyway. And hardly anyone gets E's, even if they ace all of their tests. All it teaches is that mediocrity is OK.

  4. West Potomac High School is not in Washington, DC.

  5. Amy, when I was in public school (eons ago), we got two possible letter grades for the first couple of years: S (satisfactory) or N (not satisfactory). Worked perfectly fine. It might even have been through 3rd grade. I can probably check the records, my mom kept everything ;)

    I get more upset about not having standards, like in the above story, or sliding standards (grading on a curve). Great, you did the best out of your class, but if you could only answer half of the questions you certainly don't deserve an A. And you missed your deadline by 4 months? We lost a letter grade for each DAY it was late.

  6. Beyond the fact that they'll have trouble getting into a decent college, what about the work force? When my boss says a project is due on Monday morning at 8am, it's due on Monday morning at 8am, NOT whenever I feel like turning it in, and it had better be complete and correct on Monday morning at 8am. The real world doesn't care about making you feel bad when you don't do as well as your peers. Companies aren't going to pay you to do mediocre work just to boost your self esteem. They're setting these kids up to fail for life.

  7. What most people don't realize is that Fairfax County Schools has some of the most challenging tests in the country at all grade levels. Students in high school must pass extensive tests in all four core subject areas in order to receive a regular diploma. After checking the pass rates at West Potomac, it does not appear that they have a problem in that regard.
    Several excellent colleges have alternative grading systems that go beyond the traditional letter system. They value interest, projects, and depth more than simple testing. Students from these colleges regularly go on to graduate school without any negative effects.
    I know that there are plenty of legitimate complaints about public school education, even though I am a teacher and my children have attended public school for their entire careers (and we did home-school for a short time). I'm sensing a double standard in the outlook here - we love homeschooling, we can set our own schedule, we can use whatever materials we like, our children don't have to be submitted to comparisons and competitions that come from grades, etc. But now a public school tries to do something different, and we're totally free to criticize.
    Perhaps this is a poor choice for West Potomac, but I clearly do not have enough information for an informed opinion.

  8. Sue, while it's true that we as homeschooling parents can set our own schedule and use our own material, we can (and should) still set deadlines for our children.

    I see no double standard. I have extremely high expectations of my children (which is why I got my 6 year old up at 9:30 last night and made her finish her math), and see the schools lowering expectations.

    kj has it right...what will happen when these kids have a deadline in the real world? A reporter can't hand in an article 2 weeks late and expect it to be published. A doctor can't try the same surgery 10 times hoping to get it right this time. This kind of policy sets the kids up for failure.

    Those excellent going beyond traditional letter grades, do they devalue the traditional grades? An A student with depth is preferable to an A student without depth...but is a C student with depth preferable to an A student without broad interests?

  9. This is a question of whether school is important for character training, and teaching time management, or for the actual subject. All are important, but different kids have various limitations and abilities and should have different requirements.

    As far as a comparison to deadlines at work, it is a somewhat unfair comparison because the task one is given at work is performed with a skill already possessed, let alone one amongst several unknown subjects. Part of the value of a school is figuring out what line of work you should enter.

  10. Matthew,

    I'm of the "there's more than one way to skin a cat" school of thinking:-). Like I said, I don't think I have enough information about what's going on to be able to come down hard on one side or the other. I taught in the pyramid of which West Potomac is a part. I know the clientele, I know the challenges, I know the diversity, I know the area. I looked on their website, and they are having a get-together with some folks coming in from Harvard. They aren't necessarily a slacker group.
    And different home-schoolers do things very different ways. That's part of the reason for committing to that track. I know you are far more aware of this than I. I don't think I'm in charge of anyone else's life or anyone else's children. If you choose to run your home-school that way, so be it. Many do not and should not.
    I agree with Anon 3:02.

  11. "That's okay, you do not have to answer for it because the school "understands" that being a kid is tough." Unfortunately, these same students will find it even tougher once they become adults and start learning about consequences.


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