In These Classrooms, D Doesn’t Make Grade

April 25, 2004


Byline Nicole C. Wong
San Jose Mercury News

The grades that save slackers are disappearing from report cards at several Silicon Valley high schools.

Students from Mountain View to San Jose to Fremont are learning that if they don’t work hard enough to earn a C-minus, they flunk.

A growing number of teachers have eliminated D’s, betting it will boost students’ achievement by heightening their fear of failing. Most high schools still allow students to graduate with D’s, but many four-year colleges don’t recognize such a low grade under admission requirements.

“Where else in the world does anyone accept ‘D work’ but in public schools?” says Pete Murchison, principal at Fremont’s Irvington High School, which has done away with D’s altogether.

Taking D’s out of the equation is entirely up to each teacher, according to the state education code. A Mercury News survey found teachers at six of 23 Silicon Valley public schools recently stopped doling out D’s.

Some of those teachers lower the C-minus cut-off to 67 percent. Others hold the line at 70 percent, making any-thing below that an F. In most cases, teachers have devised ways to help students who are heading toward failing.

The demise of the D makes it harder to pass a class, but educators say it’s improving marks in their grade books. Still, some wonder whether the new grading scheme demands too much from students who aren’t shooting for spots at Stanford or even Cal State-Stanislaus.

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