Cape board ponders changes to grading policy

Officials: unintended consequences result from minimum grade allowance
August 11, 2023

An unintended consequence resulted when Cape Henlopen School District officials changed a policy that allowed students to receive a minimum grade of 50 on report cards.

“What we noticed ... is that our students are very smart, and they were using those minimum grades in order to basically avoid school work and even attendance in school after a certain point in the year when they felt they were going to pass the course,” Cape Director of Teaching & Learning LouAnn Hudson informed the school board at its July 27 meeting.

Hypothetically, a student who achieved certain scores through three marking periods could choose to do little or no work in the final marking period knowing they would receive at least a 50, resulting in an average score for the entire school year above the pass-fail line. 

A committee was convened to address concerns regarding student assessment and grading from middle and high school teachers, and the union, Hudson said. Tweaks were made to the policy that won’t burn students out and will hold them accountable, she said.

“We want the grade to mean something,” Hudson said. 

To that end, Hudson said, the committee suggested that any grade lower than a 50 earned during the first and third marking periods would be reported as a 50 on the report card. For the second and fourth marking periods, the actual grade earned below 50 will be reported as the grade.

For semester-long courses, any failing grade lower than a 50 will be reported as a 50 on the report card for the first marking period, and the actual grade earned below a 50 will be reported for the second marking period.

At the end of the course, a cumulative average of the marking periods will be calculated; a final grade of 60 or above is considered passing.

For courses such as driver education that are only one marking period long, she said, the actual grade earned would be reported on the report card, and the minimum grade of 50 would not apply.

It’s important to maintain the integrity of earned grades, and honor the efforts of students and teachers, Hudson said, suggesting that the policy be reviewed and amended as necessary at the end of each school year.

The board will discuss and possibly vote on a second reading of the policy at its August meeting, said President Alison Myers. 

The topic is not on the agenda for the board’s special meeting set for 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 16, at Lewes Elementary. The next regular monthly meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 24, at H.O. Brittingham Elementary; an agenda has not yet been posted.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter