It’s time to revisit an old debate: Schools ditching “F” grades. According to the Washington Post, West Potomac High School in Virginia recently became the latest school to get rid of “F” grades. From now on, students there who turn in poor work will receive an “I” – for “incomplete.” Then they’ll be required to make up the work at a later date – usually by taking extra classes after school. They’ll keep doing the work until they’ve mastered it enough to earn a passing grade.
West Potomac High School joins some of North America’s most respected institutions in banning “F” grades - including Stanford, Yale, and the University of California. Once again, parents and teachers are worried that ditching Fs sends the message that kids don’t have to try as hard, because they’ll never have to worry about failing. Believe it or not, new evidence suggests that’s not true! For example: Educators at Yale and Stanford have found that learning actually improves when students aren’t focused on grades. That’s because you spend less time worrying about getting all the right answers on tests, and more time trying to understand the logic behind those answers. Plus, schools that have abandoned “F” grades tend to have higher graduation rates, send more students to college, and graduate kids who score higher on standardized achievement tests!
Experts say the problem with traditional grading systems seems to be that they don’t fully prepare students for the real world. Think about it: In most schools, if you get an “F” then you take your grade and move on - having never learned the assignment. Life doesn’t work that way. Many of the biggest challenges we face in life are about hanging in there, and managing a bad situation. So at the very least, “no F” grading systems force students to learn and understand the material before they can move on.