Best of 2020 #3 San Diego school district lowers standards to combat racism

As 2020 comes to a close, I am sharing some of my top posts from this year. This post was originally shared on October 26.

San Diego Unified School District is the second largest district in California. Their district recently approved major changes in their grading system to combat racial disparities in academic out comings. 

NBC San Diego explains the background for policy changes: 
According to data presented by the district, under the old grading system, teachers fail minority students more than White students – a lot more. During the first semester of last year, 30% of all D or F grades were given to English learners. One in four, 25%, of failing marks went to students with disabilities. By ethnicity, 23% went to Native Americans. Another 23% of failing grades went to Hispanics. And 20% of D or F grades went to Black students.

Among the changes, if assignments are turned in late, that will not count against a student’s academic score. Grading will not be based on cumulative scores throughout a term but by academic mastery of a subject by the end of a term. 

The policies also lessen penalties for cheating. Quoting from the San Diego Union Tribune: 
Under the new grading policy, when a student is caught cheating, schools must give the student a chance to reflect on what he or she did, repair trust and receive counseling or other help.

This is insanity. 

Their grand solution to disparities in grading is to lower standards? 

Lower expectations do not help to overcome disparities. Lower expectations do not help the world to overcome racism. They make everyone worse off. Basic academic expectations such as not cheating and turning things in on time help to prepare people for life in the real world. Because in life, there are consequences for cheating. In life, there are consequences for not making deadlines. In life, your performance matters. 

On paper, that might show some improvements in these academic disparities. But at what cost? Are these making people perform at a higher level? It seems like this could far more easily have people performing at an even worse level. They’re removing basic consequences of student’s actions. On paper, grades might be better, but if they’re doing a worse job of preparing people for the real world, I ask of what value that is. 

Part of the heart behind these changes is that some students can come from dysfunctional homes and study academically. That is a sad reality. And I recognize that there is not an easy solution to these issues. But in lowering standards to boost grades, that doesn’t change the risk of harmful unintended consequences. 

Also, I question how these policies are themselves not racist? In focusing on late assignments or cheating, they say that it’s healing to fight racism to eliminate these policies? It’s the racism of low expectations. 

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