On Friday afternoon, I called Dallas ISD spokesman Jon Dahlander to get him to explain this new grading policy, which was starting to make my head spin. Dahlander said he needed some time to familiarize himself with the new policy, a draft copy of which had been published. He said he’d get back to me (which I knew he would). So I told myself to reserve judgment until I heard the full story. Then, Saturday, Superintendent Michael Hinojoso seemed to defend what appeared to me indefensible. Still, I waited. But Sunday brought J-Floyd’s column, and I just couldn’t hold my fingers any longer. I twisted off.
I should have waited one more day. Because I just got off the phone with Dahlander, who did a lot to clarify this situation in my mind. The draft version of the policy was passed to the DMN before it was ready for public dissemination. The district offices were closed Friday, so clarification didn’t come as quickly as it should have. Below, you’ll learn the truth. In short, though, this entire thing has been overblown.
Misinformation: Students can’t be given grades below 50. The facts: A 50 is the lowest grade on the report card. This does not apply to classwork or homework. A kid can still get a 0 on a homework assignment.
Misinformation: Students can retake any test they fail anytime. The facts: Students at every level must be given one opportunity to retake any major test (as defined by grade level or department teachers) within five school days the failing grade was received or no later than 10 days of the date of the test.
Misinformation: Homework grades should be given only when the grades will “raise a student’s average, not lower it.” The facts: This is true, but only at grades 2 through 5. At grades 6 through 12, homework grades can be recorded at teacher discretion as previously practiced.
Misinformation: Students cannot receive a 0 or grade penalty for work not done or not completed on time. The facts: A committee of teachers on each campus determines the policy at that campus. As campus instructional leaders, principals have the authority to approve the teacher-developed procedures. So, in other words, yes, students can get a O.
Misinformation: Parents must be called before recording a 0 in the grade book. The facts: True, but, again, only in grades 2 through 5. Teachers in grades 6 through 12 are encouraged to contact parents if a 0 would result in a failing six-weeks grade for a student, but are not required to do so.
Is everyone on the same page, now? Students still have to do their homework. If they do it poorly or not on time, they can still be given a bad grade. And if they flunk a major test, they can take another shot at it within a reasonable amount of time.
The sad thing about this whole mess is that the DMN won’t run a front-page clarification story. The damage to the district’s reputation has been done. People will continue to run around telling each other that they’re moving to Plano because they wouldn’t dare put their kid in Dallas ISD, where the teachers can’t give bad grades and the students don’t have to do homework.