Kentucky School Wants to Eliminate 'C' as Passing Grade

A small northern Kentucky school district that has eliminated the "D" as a passing grade is now considering making students earn better than a "C" to pass.

The Eminence Independent School District eliminated D's four years ago, meaning students would have to earn a C or better to pass.

"Getting a D is like doing the bare minimum," said Carter Martin, a middle and high school business teacher. "Life isn't like that."

The school district in Henry County will vote next month on whether to eliminate C's beginning in 2009-10, which would require about 300 middle and high school students to score no lower than 80 percent to earn a passing grade.

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School officials said eliminating D's has dropped the failure rate and raised standardized test scores by 13 percent in middle school and 10 percent in high school.

"We raised their standards, and they met them," said Steve Frommeyer, principal of Eminence's middle and high schools.

Even students who initially worried about the no-D policy say they are now believers.

"I thought everyone would fail," said Ethan Keiser, a 16-year-old junior. "But we were actually pushed a lot harder, and students really kicked in gear. It got a lot more people focused."

The policy has its critics. Nationally, at least two school systems — one in Maryland and another in Florida — abandoned the policy because too many students were failing.

In Oldham County, two high schools have also abolished D grades, but some parents said the move is unfairly damaging students by forcing them off athletic teams and hurting their grade point averages.

"There are kids with learning disabilities that are falling through the cracks," said David Miller, who pulled his son out of North Oldham High School after he failed several classes under the policy. "This policy seems to be a way to push them through the cracks more quickly."

Eminence officials said districts considering a grading overhaul should phase it in, one grade at a time.

Frommeyer said there are safeguards that can be put in place to guard against damaging students, including offering assistance. He said Eminence has learned from the mistake of pushing the policy in too quickly.

When it eliminated D's for all middle schoolers in 2002, the failure rate jumped from 5 percent to 18 percent, with many students being held back that year.

"You just don't raise the standards and say, 'Good luck, kids,' " Frommeyer said. "You have to have a lot of other standards in place." He said the new grading scale would eliminate the C grade gradually.

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