Several Upstate Districts Change Grades of Failing Students - WSPA.com

Several Upstate Districts Change Grades of Failing Students

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After admitting sending emails to teachers at her school ordering them to change grades for failing students, the director at RD Anderson in Spartanburg County said she wasn't alone.

"I would love to see you go from district to district and across the state and just see what's out there because it's still practiced pretty much in a lot of places," said Sherri Yarborough.

7 On Your Side checked with districts across the Upstate and found several were doing exactly as Yarborough said.

Now, because of the Community Watchdog Investigation into changed grades, one lawmaker says the South Carolina legislature may ban the practice statewide.

Katie Bradley is a retired teacher from Greenwood District 50. She contacted 7 On Your Side after the initial investigation.

"(Students) would look us straight in the eye.  I've had them tell me that you have to give me a 60 that's the rule! That's the rule," Bradley said

A district official confirmed that there is something called the "60 rule".  It means that students with failing grades lower than 60 have them changed with points added to reach a minimum of 60 for a 9 week period.

"It was the single most detrimental to our classroom discipline ever in all my years of teaching. It was the one item that destroyed my authority in my classroom," Bradley said.

 In Oconee County, the school board passed a so-called grade floor at the end of the last school year.  For a year long course, the grade for the first semester cannot be recorded as lower than 60.  For a one semester course, the rule applies to the first 9 weeks.

In Greenville County, failing elementary students have grades changed to a "61" at the end of a 9-week period.  For High School Freshmen, the 61 floor applies only to the first and third 9 weeks.  For other high school students, the grade floor is 50.

Northwood Middle School principal Richard Griffin supports the Greenville County policy.

"It's to make sure the child who has a bad quarter, who turns himself around, has a chance to be successful," Griffin said.

"Do we fail a child for one bad quarter when there are so many extenuating circumstances that are beyond our control?" he asked.

The law is unclear.  There is a statewide "Uniform Grading Policy" but the State board of education says that policy does not change or modify district level policy.

The South Carolina Superintendent of Education, Dr. Mick Zais, called the grade floors a "violation of policy" in a letter to the state's district superintendents.  Zais, however, does not have the authority to change grade floors.

The legislature does.

"I heard last week for the first time that this could be occurring in some of the districts," said Rep. Phil Owens, chairman of the House Education Committee.

Owens said that while he just learned of the issue, he strongly opposes the policy and thinks increased publicity will force the legislature to ban the practice next session.

"I'm of the opinion that you should receive what you have earned that you should not be granted something you didn't earn," Owens said.

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