- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2002

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) The Frederick County school district is dropping the D from the grading scale in hopes that those who might have settled for near-failure will strive for C's instead.
Starting this fall, the grades available in Frederick County's eight public high schools will be A, B, C or F.
"We felt that [the D] basically represented mediocrity," said Hank Bohlander, instructional director for high schools.
"Mediocre performance will not prepare students properly to pass the rigorous and upcoming high school assessment, nor will it prepare students for the work world."
The action, a first in Maryland, is one of the ways in which high schools statewide are preparing for the mandatory assessment tests.
The state-mandated high school assessment tests are designed to evaluate proficiency in various subjects. High school seniors are taking the tests this month, but they need not pass them to graduate. State education officials have said that the tests may be required for graduation by 2007.
Montgomery County is giving high school students enrolled in any of five courses ninth-grade English, algebra, geometry, biology and government tests that conform to the state exams. Charles County has begun requiring ninth- and 10th-grade courses to have final exams modeled on the state tests.
Anne Arundel County school officials have considered eliminating the D from their grading scale but have not yet done so. Districts in Texas, Oregon and Ohio have eliminated the D in some schools.
In Frederick County, a committee of business leaders, teachers, students, parents and administrators studied the ramifications for 18 months before endorsing the idea.
Some Frederick teachers and parents have questioned whether the move will encourage teachers to give more C's, fostering grade inflation, but complaints have been minimal, said Sharla Worley, president of the PTA Council of Frederick County.
Most teachers have attended workshops to prepare them for the adjustment, school officials said. They were urged to help students improve their work rather than award them C's for clearly inferior performance.
Another concern is that the grading change will increase dropout rates.
"There will be a few who will be caught in the cross fire," said Denise Fargo-Devine, principal of Frederick High School. "But for a student who is struggling with the content and we are worried about whether they're going to [fail], there is such a variety of support mechanisms."


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