Failing grades// After turning in incomplete assignments, a student receives a series of math papers back, featuring the teacher’s corrections and comments. Not completing an assignment will lead to a letter grade of F, but what determines the severity of the grade will be whether or not the Minimum F policy is implemented. (Photo by Madeline Vernaci)
Minimum Fs Encourage Minimum Ef-fort
by Siena Howard
The start of the 2023-2024 school year has introduced many new challenges for students, but none were as surprising as the removal of the Minimum F policy by the Clark County School District. Suddenly, after three years of missing assignments being given 50% credit, they are now worth 0%, effectively taking away the safety net students had grown so used to. All throughout the first week back, panicked whispers were heard asking whether this rumor was true and what would happen to all of our grades. Alas, it is true— but is this decision truly so horrifying, or is removing minimum Fs a good thing?
The most obvious point of contention with the old policy is that Minimum Fs simply don’t make sense. Why receive half-credit for an assignment not even attempted? Why is a test score of a 30% made into a 50%? This system is confusing and destroys the objectivity of the grading system (or whatever was left of it). It places all grades onto a new scale that is unnecessary.
Beyond the logic of it, Minimum Fs had serious impacts on students and teachers alike. Minimum Fs don’t motivate students. Instead, they push them to strive for the bare minimum, skipping assignments as long as the fifty-percent-grades add up to a passing one. Many students are essentially desensitized to turning in assignments late or even not at all. The impacts of having so much late and missing work encourage a passionless learning process for students where instead of wanting to learn the material, students simply care about the numbers on a screen.
Thanks to the endless amount of students trying to turn in late assignments or retake tests, teachers are swamped with extra work that they have to complete outside of their normal work hours. Students let this happen because a 50% score doesn’t impact their grades as severely. If students received a 0% on their missing assignments instead, they’d feel the repercussions with a greater sense of urgency as their grade would sink substantially lower with each missing assignment. Moving away from the Minimum F would not only make students more productive but also save teachers stress.
While the higher minimum grade may make CCSD grades look better on paper, the cracks will show when students graduate into a school system that does expect them to actually complete work. CCSD students haven’t learned a work ethic to carry them through life because of policies like this. In comparison to other school districts across the country, CCSD students have to work significantly less to earn their high grades. Minimum Fs may seem like a plus for the students, but truly, it’s just like handing out participation trophies.
Minimum F: the future of minimum failure
by Madeline Vernaci
For the 2023-2024 school year, the Clark County School District has revoked the controversial “Minimum F” grading policy and edited other district-wide grading policy changes instated in the 2021-2022 school year. This policy allowed students who scored less than 50% on an assignment to receive no less than the minimum 50 in the Infinite Campus gradebook.
These changes serve to further the plans and goals created by both the Board of School Trustees and CCSD’s most recent superintendent, Dr. Jesus Jara. With Superintendent Jara’s arrival in 2018, the plans that were made by the school district changed slightly from previous superintendent Pat Skorkowsky’s ”Pledge of Achievement” plan, which focused on challenging students to take more difficult classes and increasing the number of students who attend college.
While still focusing on promoting challenging classes and college attendance, Superintendent Jara’s “Focus: 2024” plan for district-wide improvement takes a step back to focus on improving the graduation rates as well as making sure all schools meet Nevada’s 3-star standard of education. Most importantly, the Focus: 2024 plan seeks to promote equity throughout the Clark County School district, especially for students and communities that have been historically underserved.
One of the ways that the Focus: 2024 plan promotes equity is through a series of grade reforms, most notably with the implementation of the “Minimum F” equitable grading scale. In theory, the Minimum F policy allows students who don’t understand the material to have a second chance to relearn the material, improving their grades through increased understanding.
“The equity grading scale provides a floor of 50, which ensures an equal range for each letter grade of A through F,” CCSD’s official website says. “The proposed equity grading scale includes an F which will be used for students who have not demonstrated mastery of the standards. Students who are in danger of failing a course will be provided with support through reteaching and demonstrations of new learning.”
In the past two years, the Minimum F policy has had a noticeable effect on students of CCSD schools. Schools that may not have had adequate funding or resources in the past can give students more opportunities to learn and grow. With the Minimum F policy, students who try but struggle to understand the concept, yet still want to learn it, can and will succeed in the future.
Data found on CCSD’s website supports the Minimum F policy as well, specifically documenting the extent to which the Focus: 2024 plan has been improving student proficiency in different subjects. With baseline values set in 2018 when Superintendent Jara began implementing the plan, the following year showed increases that would likely have continued to grow. Sadly, with the unfortunate and severe downturn most statistics had in 2020 and 2021 due to the distanced learning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a large amount of that progress was lost.
In the years following the Minimum F policy’s instatement, after online learning came to an end, statistics began to rise again in a period of recovery in all areas except 11th-grade standardized testing. However, since the 11th grade statistics are sampled from ACT scores, that goes more to show that schools have on the whole inadequately prepared students for high-pressure exams such as the ACT.
Statistics and student progress with regard to state testing show how the Minimum F grade reform had helped students who wanted to learn the content, but may not have been able to learn it at the same pace as others. When implemented in a way that focuses on mastery of concepts and maximum understanding, the Minimum F is incredibly beneficial to students.
While some of CCSD’s policies have been less beneficial to students and their proficiency in academics as a whole, the Minimum F is an equitable policy that has the potential to positively affect many students who have been historically underrepresented.