At West Potomac High School, taking F off the grade books
By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 14, 2010; 12:04 AM
Depending on whom you ask, West Potomac High School's latest change to student grading is either another sign of a coddled generation or a necessary step to help struggling kids.
The dreaded F has been all but banished from the grade books.
The report cards that arrived home late last week showed few failing grades but instead marks of "I" for incomplete, indicating that students still owe their teachers essential work. They will get Fs only if they fail to complete assignments and learn the content in the months to come.
The change in educational philosophy is intended to encourage students to continue working toward mastery of material rather than accepting a failing grade and moving on. Schools throughout the Washington area and the nation have made other moves to improve grading methods, especially as they affect low-performing students, though few have gone so far as West Potomac High, in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County.
"It's a huge paradigm shift," said principal Clifford Hardison, who recalls that when year-end grades were tallied last June at West Potomac, he counted nearly 2,000 Fs, with a large group of teens racking up more than one failed course.
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