Failing students still get credits

GREENFIELD — Sophomores at Greenfield-Central High School who fail certain classes could receive credit for the courses anyway if they pass state-mandated exams.

The district’s new waiver policy aims to help students graduate on time, administrators say; if they can demonstrate proficiency in a subject on the test, a failing grade in the class can be bumped to a D-plus.

All 10th-graders are required to take end-of-course assessments, tests that measure whether students understand core concepts taught in language arts, algebra and biology classes.

About 20 of the high school’s 1,500 students pass the test each year even though they have a failing grade in one of the subjects, Superintendent Harold Olin said. Forcing those students to repeat the courses when they’ve proved they understand the material can put a burden on teachers; students tend to be disengaged from lesson plans and can cause disruptions during class, he said.

He hopes the change will motivate those students who have mastered concepts but struggle with classwork to graduate on time with their peers.

“We’d rather move those students on to a new course where they have an opportunity to learn something new,” Olin said. “By doing this, we hope it removes a barrier for them.”

Greenfield-Central School Corp. is the first local district to adopt the policy, which was passed as an option for schools by the Indiana State Board of Education in 2009.

The highest grade students who qualify for the waiver can receive is a D-plus. Students who score midrange on the state exam will receive a D; and those who receive a low — but still passing — score will be given a D-minus.

Kim Kile, Greenfield-Central High School guidance director, said the change will open opportunities for qualifying students. They might be able to enroll in a vocational program or explore an elective class during time they previously had to dedicate to retaking courses they failed, she said.

When students flunk a class, they often lose motivation, she said.

“It’ll help prevent students from feeling like there’s no chance they’ll get their diploma because they’re so behind on classes,” she said. “It gives them some hope for continuing, especially if they’re stuck in a bad grade pattern.”

Ted Jacobs, a 10th-grade English teacher at the high school, thinks the change is reasonable.

Most often, students who fail end up doing so because they don’t keep up with assignments, not because they don’t understand what’s been taught, he said.

“There are all sorts of extenuating circumstances that could keep a child from doing those things; they might have a job, they might be helping family at home,” he said.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.