I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

No Zero Grading Part VIII: What do the Report Cards Show?

When I was told that at some district middle schools teachers were being encouraged to not give any grades below 50, thereby self-implementing a de facto “no zeros policy” in contravention to existing board policy on grading scales,   I quickly asked the Superintendent and the Asst. Superintendent of curriculum about this. Both men denied this was occurring “to their knowledge.” After hearing that another board member had been told by teachers that “they could not, were not allowed-to fail students” I requested specific information from the district staff so that an analysis could be done on a small sample of report cards from several middle schools to either prove, or disprove, these claims.  The district deserves great credit here, for quickly providing the data requested so that an abbreviated

analysis could be completed.

The small sample that I requested and was given has been analyzed in a "quick and dirty" fashion by members of the district's auditing staff--and the following results are presented:

Warrington Middle School 212 Students—all 7th grade 2014-2015

423 total Fs
95 total 50s (22.46%)
321 total between 50 and 59 (75.89%)
102 total below 50 (24.11%)

Workman Middle 2015-2016 SY (100 total students):

*120 total Fs
21 total 50s (17.50%)
70 total between 50 and 59 (58.33%)
27 total below 50 (22.50%)

*2 Fs that didn't have numerical scores associated with them, included in the total number of Fs here

Bailey Middle 6th Grade, 2013-2014 SY (33 students used for analysis):

12 total Fs
2 total 50s (16.67%)
9 total between 50 and 59 (75%)
1 total below 50 (8.33%)

Bailey Middle 7th Grade 2013-2014 SY (33 students used for analysis):

53 total Fs
14 total 50s (26.42%)
25 total between 50 and 59 (47.27%)
14 total below 50 (26.42%)

Bailey Middle 8th Grade 2013-2014 SY (34 students used for analysis):

56 total Fs
9 total 50s (16.07%)
37 total between 50 and 59 (66.07%)
10 total below 50 (17.86%)

What does this all mean? 
Well, it pretty clearly illustrates that if a true “no zero” policy had been tacitly implemented at Bailey, Workman, or Woodham Middle schools, it was not being followed by all of the teachers.
It also appears that for this very small sample and under this extremely non-scientific analysis--around 20% of all the “F” grades equaled exactly “50” with about  two thirds of all “F” grades falling between 50 and 59 and about 20% of the remaining “F” grades at these three middle schools falling below 50. 
Is this a normal distribution of “F” grades, on a 0-59 scale? 
I have been unable to locate any data on this specific question, and so therefore I do not know.  One thing I do know, after having led a thorough discussion on this matter with my counterparts on the board  at Thursday’s workshop, is that a formalized “no zero” policy, dictated downward to all teachers and schools from staff,  would not find support from this board;  individual teacher discretion to set grades for individual students, however, garners unanimous support.
So this whole discussion was worthwhile locally—given the fact that some Florida districts (Orange, Collier) and even some large districts nationally (Philadelphia Public Schools, LAUSD) already implement such schemes to artificially manipulate graduation rates and grade level passage rates. 

This sort of a scheme will, like a boomerang, eventually come back for consideration in Escambia County Public Schools, I have no doubt about that.  At at least now I know how the Board feels about this issue if it is ever brought to us for consideration in the future.

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