Teachers in Washington, D.C. public schools are decrying new policies that lower academic standards, including one that requires a passing grade even for students who fail three out of four quarters.
Teachers at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School said such minimal expectations inculcate mediocrity among students who are already disadvantaged, NPR reported Wednesday. Algebra teacher Shaka Greene even quit his job over the policy about passing students after three quarters of failure—a policy he did not believe was real when he first heard about it.
"Are you being serious?" Greene asked at a staff meeting after laughing in the faces of coworkers who warned him about the policy. "Students only have to pass for 25 percent of the year?"
"Yup, that's policy," Assistant Principal Leslie Edwards said.
"That's bullshit," Greene replied.
Other teachers at Ron Brown did not follow Green out the door over the policy, but they agreed with his opposition to the policies. The changes also included a rule giving half credit for assignments that students never did.
"I hate it, and my students know I hate it," English teacher Schalette Gudger said. "Some students lean on that because they are so accustomed to mediocrity. I think it's a play into creating a generation of students, particularly in urban school systems, that are not prepared when they get to college or get to careers to be productive."
"That's not teaching my kids integrity," history teacher Travis Bouldin said. "Low expectations are low expectations. I don't care how you cut it."
David Pinder of D.C. Public Schools defended the "rigorous" policies.
"I don't apologize for that," he said. "I think the goal is to get kids to the finish line, and if there are kids who are going to meet you there, we should find ways to do it."
"One of the things DCPS has been trying to do is to make sure we have a grading policy that is fair and rigorous but also gives kids multiple opportunities to get back on track," Pinder added.
Administrators rely on psychology research saying students are better off long-term if they pass, since drop-outs often end up in prison. But Grudger questioned the logic that merely being passed will have a positive effect on the students.
"I understand the statistics, that if a student fails ninth grade he is bound to drop out of high school," Gudger said. "I get it. However, it's like, ‘So, if we pass him through, what can he do with his life? What have we prepared him for?'"
Principal Ben Williams and members of the school "care team" had a meeting with Greene in which they called him a "fake and a fraud" for claiming to want to help students but being willing to fail them.
"To use this guilt trip … I could have said in the moment, ‘You abandoned them first with this bullshit policy,'" Greene said.