Texas Schools Relax Grading Policy

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This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," August 21, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

E.D. HILL, HOST: If you're a parent, you know what it is - back-to-school time. And a fantasy is coming true in Dallas, Texas. If your child was promised a redo each time they flunk a test or an extra day when they forgot their homework, would it encourage them to stick with it and graduate or become even less accountable? Well that's the debate over a new policy.

Now, you probably thought you didn't hear me correctly. So here it is again. High school students who fail a major test get the chance to retake them within five days and only the higher score counts. The hope is to decrease the dropout rate. The concern is, it's not fair and it ill- prepares them for the real world.

Joining us is a member of the board of trustees for the Dallas Independent School District, Jerome Garza. Thanks for being with us.

JEROME GARZA, MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES, DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: Thank you. Thank you for having me. It's an honor to be with you today.

Video: Watch E.D. Hill's interview

HILL: Well, I understand the issue. Dallas has a pretty high dropout rate compared to the rest of the state but is the way to keep kids in school by letting them slide and get second chances?

GARZA: The number one issue facing public education throughout the nation is our dropout rate, and clearly, we're looking for solutions. The number one issue that we saw here is that it's not the standardized tests failing that the students are leaving school. It's because through the years, they don't get enough credit hours and therefore they see no hope for the future and why stay in school?

HILL: This new policy says that if the kids don't make the grade the first go-round, they get a chance to retake the test. If they forget their homework, they get the chance to still turn it in a day late. What does this do for the kids who are studying, who are doing well, but say they get a B, but they take the test on time? Would they get the chance to take it over and only have the higher score count?

GARZA: That's a great question. Let me divide up the homework and the testing, because the testing that the Dallas ISD will do is grades one through 12. If a student fails a test, a teacher is required to allow the student take the test again within five days. If the student passes the test, let's say they make an 80, that is to the discretion of the teacher whether or not the student, if they want to retake the test, if they're allowed to. But that opportunity is there.

HILL: I was a graduate of Dripping Springs High down in Texas. And I'll tell you what - this is the kind of student I was back then. If I had that chance, I would take the first test as kind of a prep and I'd wait and take the second test that would count. Why won't kids do that?

GARZA: Well, I think you raise a good question. And we are going down an area that is very new. One of the beauties of instituting this is, you know, at semester break, six months from now, we're going to revisit this just as we do all curriculum and all new policies in the Dallas ISD and see if it is working. If it is not, then we will change it back to what it was before.

But if it does work, think of the benefit. In many of our public schools in large urban areas, the dropout rate is anywhere from 35 to 55 percent. The real message is what are we doing to save those young children?

HILL: All right. Jerome Garza, thank you very much. I know you had to do your homework. You graduated from one of the toughest boys' schools, Saint Mark's. You didn't get any slack there. Thank you very much.

GARZA: No, no. There were no redo's there. You had to pass it the first time or not.

HILL: That's right. Thanks so much.

GARZA: Thank you.

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