The Atlanta, Georgia school district is no longer giving grades less than 50%, even if no work is submitted.
Teachers in Atlanta Public Schools (APS) are being directed to give students 50% credit on missed assignments, Fox 5 Atlanta reported last week.
Even the teachers’ union is critical of the move.
“If we are going to give 50% for zeroes, then we may as well give every football player [an] NFL rank,” said Verdailla Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers. “If a student does not complete an assignment, why are you saying that they did 50%? This is very demeaning.”
APS’s deputy superintendent’s office told Fox the change is to “ensure that it equitably supports our students’ academic growth and empowers them to improve their performance, while also maintaining academic rigor.”
But Atlanta’s academics seem anything but rigorous.
Moreover, less than a third of APS elementary students read at grade level, and nearly half (42%) are ranked as “beginning,” the lowest category.
For middle schoolers, just 32% read at grade level, and 24% in math.
In high school, only 18% are proficient in Algebra 1, and despite rising graduation rates, career readiness and college enrollment have both declined.
In 2019, nearly 90% of Atlanta high schoolers participated in accelerated courses. By 2022, that number dropped by half, to 45%.
Worryingly in a district that has just lowered the bar, research shows that higher grading standards helps students be more successful.
“Lax grading is a pernicious practice that provides students and parents with a false sense of security and accomplishment,” said researcher and economist Seth Gershenson. “Low grading standards pose a grave threat to the performance and evaluation of U.S. public schools that ultimately jeopardizes the competency of high school and college graduates who are entering the workforce.”
Atlanta educators are also concerned about the district’s directive to apply the new grading system to assignments from earlier in the year.
“The fact that it’s retroactive is also disturbing because you’re going back and altering literally history,” said Michael Bond, a city councilman. “This hearkens back to the cheating scandal [of] a decade or so ago where grades were manipulated.”
But APS isn’t the only district inflating grades for the sake of equity. It’s happening across the country.
A Kansas City district passed a similar policy in which any effort automatically earned a grade of 60%. Zero effort garnered 50% credit.
Like Turner, teachers in Nevada weren’t happy with the changes.
“The new grading system is making educators’ jobs increasingly harder,” said union president Vicki Kreidel. “Students across the district are taking advantage of it. Allowing students to pass with very little effort is not setting them up to succeed in the workforce, especially in high school.”