Teachers at North Harford High School were instructed late last year to grade several students only on the work they had completed, and to exempt those students from all other course work. The process was termed “grading out” by the school administration, which told teachers to override the Harford County Public Schools grading system if necessary. The grading system automatically records zeros for missing work, which would have dragged down the students’ final grades.
A source familiar with the situation told The Dagger that “grading out” at North Harford was applied to students who had been on long term suspension and that the free ride included both final exams and work assigned after the students were suspended.
As such, “grading out” would seem contrary to Harford County Board of Education policy, which requires students to complete make-up work following a school suspension or any other legal absence:
The source said the process of “grading out” was a way to get students to pass their courses and that it was likely in response to pressure to raise passing rates; pressure that the source said had been put on all Harford County school administrators by Superintendent Robert M. Tomback.
With at least one Harford County high school instructing teachers to engage in the practice of “grading out”, The Dagger contacted HCPS, asking the following questions about why a student might be graded only on work submitted and exempted from all other work:
Under what circumstances are students eligible to be “graded out”?
Who makes the decision to grade a student out?
What is the purpose?
Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for HCPS, responded in an email as follows:
“…this has to do with one student with some disciplinary issues. I cannot discuss the details of case with you but there is no concept of “grading out” – you are referencing an individual student and issues that surround them.”
But that response from HCPS is at odds with an email sent out from the North Harford High School administration on June 9, 2011, days before the end of the last school year. The email outlines the procedure for “grading out” and reads in part: “We have several students on our rolls that are to be ‘graded out’ for the year.” Widely distributed at the time – to teachers, staff and administrators – the email goes on to provide instructions for altering students’ final grades.
A copy of the email was provided to The Dagger and appears below (identities of the sender and recipient have been removed):
Sent: Thu 6/9/2011 3:33 PM
To: Dist.Teachers.NHHS-080.HS;Dist.Staff.NHHS-080.HS; Dist.Admin.NHHS-080.HS
Subject: Grading Out Students.
We have several students on our rolls that are to be “graded out” for the year. Below are the guidelines for doing so.
“Grading Out a Student”
Grade on the work that the student has completed for you. They should be exempted from all other work.
If need be, override the final grade and enter the grade the student has earned. If you are unable to override the grade please e-mail me the grade that needs to be entered.