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Minnesota school no longer gives grade of ‘F’ because of ‘systemic racism’

In the name of combatting “systemic racism,” a Minnesota middle school no longer will allow teachers to give students a grade of “F.”

An “F” now will be designated an “I” for “incomplete, and teachers also will not be able to assign a grade lower than 50 percent to any student.

In a YouTube video, Sunrise Park Middle School Principal Christina Pierre and Associate Principal Norman Bell explain their intent “is to ensure that grades focus on the process of learning.” This means grades cannot factor in things associated with (student) “behaviors, attitude, [and] tardiness.”

While this does make pedagogical sense, the administrators also note that handing in work late cannot affect students’ grades. Further, students are “encouraged” to retake and/or revise tests, quizzes and papers within a 10-day window to improve their initial scores, Fox News reports.

Principal Pierre’s rationale for not allowing grade percentages under 50 percent is a bit silly; she uses an example in which a student has gotten a “B” and a “C” on two tests, but hasn’t yet taken a third test due to absence … and thus has an “I.” Under the old system, that third grade would be factored in as a zero percent.

But in my experience, an “incomplete” due to an absence (or something similar) is never factored into a student’s grade until the relevant test/quiz/paper is completed. What sense does it make to give a student a zero because he had the flu all week?

The point is what happens when a student never completes the work, even given Sunrise Park’s 10-day window (and perhaps beyond). It still would count as 50 percent despite either absolutely no effort in completing it, or accepting the (easy) responsibility for turning finished work in.

MORE: Teacher says she was fired for giving grades of ‘zero’ for missed work

According to the White Bear Lake Area School District, Sunrise Park’s new grading efforts help in the fight against systemic racism. In an announcement about Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak being named 2021 Superintendent of the Year, the district notes Kazmierczak had “led the development of an equity commitment statement and adopted a four-way equity decision making protocol to guide the district’s work.”

Part of the district’s “equity audit” showed “grading disparities among among students of color.”

“Grading can be one of the largest areas in which systemic racism and inequities are perpetuated,” the announcement states. “Grading should not be a behavior punishment and should not be a measure of how well a student can survive stress at home.” The last part presumably refers to completion of homework.

(Of note: Sunrise Park is the school which earlier this year used a lesson on “oppression” which separated students into “privileged” and “targeted” groups.)

If our public schools exist to help prepare students for college and employment, there should be a better explanation by Kazmierczak, Pierre and Bell as to how not doing anything at all gets students 50 percent credit. What will Sunrise Park students end up doing in college? At their jobs? Write complaint letters to the student newspaper and director of human resources respectively?

Read the article.

MORE: School district scraps traditional ‘A-F’ grading system for kinder, gentler model

IMAGE: pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 18 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.