GR: 'H' plan didn't turn around grades

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Only about 16 percent of the failing grades reported in five Grand Rapids high schools were converted to passing marks through the district’s “H” grading plan, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

 The plan gave students an “H” — for “held” — on their report cards rather than a failing grade if they flunked a core class, according to The Press. Those students were then given the next trimester to make up work, retake the class or otherwise show mastery.

 A district report showed that of the 2,866 "H" grades issued during the first and second trimesters, 472 were converted, The Press reported. In 68 percent of the cases, students made no effort to convert the grade, while 15 percent of retakes ended in a second failure, according to the article.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor told the school board he is frustrated by the lack of student initiative, but also plans to take failure rates into consideration on future teacher evaluations, The Press reported. He said he will consider failure rates before assigning teachers to coaching jobs or other extra-pay duties, the article said.

"If a teacher can't help his students pass, then he doesn't have time to be a coach," Taylor said after the meeting, according to The Press.

Teacher union president Paul Helder told The Press that administrators should consider why students are failing, including reasons of attendance and discipline. “It can’t all be teachers,” he said. "There are a lot of reasons students fail."

Taylor said that drastic action is needed because of proposed legislation that would allow state education leaders to take over failing schools, The Press reported.

The Grand Rapids Press, “Grand Rapids Public Schools staff under more scrutiny as administrators try to boost student performance,” April 20, 2009

Michigan Education Daily Digest, “School reform bills introduced,” April 7, 2009