- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - One of New Mexico’s biggest school districts is mulling scrapping the letter grade “D” to raise graduation standards amid similar changes in other school districts across the country.

According to a plan under consideration by the board of Santa Fe Public Schools, the district would eliminate the D grade from its scale and force struggling students to shoot for at least a “C.”

Board member Steve Carrillo introduced the proposal this month and said the plan is modeled after ones adopted in school districts in New Jersey. Carrillo said the change will “raise the bar” for students.

“A D is not really helping our kids,” school board member Maureen Cashmon told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “It’s not showing that they know the material. Especially in high school. . We are not doing our kids any favor by letting them have D’s on their transcripts.”

If the D grade is eliminated, students would need at least a C average to graduate from high school.

But the plan - and others like it - is drawing scrutiny from some educators, especially from those concern how it might affect students of color.

For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District reinstated “D” grades in 2015 after it had eliminated the grade for 10 years. District officials realized that around 20,000 high school students, mainly minority students, were at risk of not graduating.

In the Eminence, Kentucky, school district, a similar policy failed almost immediately because the district did not offer any programs to help struggling students who found themselves in the F pool. As a result, the district’s rate of students failing classes jumped from 5 percent to 18 percent in the first year of the initiative.

Santa Fe Superintendent Garcia said she will schedule a study session on the topic because a lot of questions remain to be answered.

“What is the intent of not having the D grade?” she asked. “Does it really raise standards? Do we pilot it first? Do we start the concept in middle school so by the time those students get to high school they know it is the new standard? It has merit in investigating it, but I need more data.”

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