Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Judge Rules Against Grade Inflation

I read about it first at the Dallas Morning News. Yesterday, Judge Gisela Triana-Doyal of the 200th Judicial District Civil Court ruled in a lawsuit brought against TEA Commissioner Robert Scott by eleven Texas school districts that districts may not require their teachers to issue grades that are higher than a student actually earned.

I have two previous postings on this matter. The reason the school districts gave for flouting what became state law last year was that the provisions in the law were vague and that they applied to individual grades on class assignments but not to actual progress reports or semester reports.

This despite the fact that Commissioner Scott issued a directive to all school districts in the state that clarified the issue, and that State Rep Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound) clearly indicated the intent of her bill, SB 2033 that became law in unanimous passage last year, was to address grade inflation on report cards.

And apparently the judge had an easier time reading the law than the school boards. From DMN:

“But the judge dismissed their arguments, saying the legislation was ‘not ambiguous’ and reflected the Legislature's intent to protect teachers from having to give grades that weren't earned.”

Significantly, the Houston Chronicle reports that the judge was not deciding the case on the merits of each sides' arguments, both of which, she said, had valid points. The decision was simply a judgment on the merits of the ambiguity in the language of the law as claimed by the school districts.

Asked to comment on the decision to allow teachers to accurately report on their students’ mastery of subject matter, State Senator Nelson seemed pleased:

“This ruling is a victory for Texas teachers, students and parents because now all grades – on class assignments and on report cards – will accurately reflect how well students have mastered their coursework. Knowing the truth about a student's progress is important information for helping all children succeed in school.”

Going forward, what comes next is still apparently up in the air. Richard Morris, the lawyer representing the eleven school districts was rather vague, himself, on possible actions. An appeal was a possibility, he offered. Otherwise the districts might be lobbying the legislature to reverse itself.

But quite frankly, I think Morris might have to look for other cases to occupy his time, otherwise known as “billable hours.” Mainly because in public school education, money is so tight right now that school districts are cutting staff and trimming bus routes. I doubt that taxpayers would take it very kindly if they learned that their school boards were engaged in cutting services but were still spending taxpayer dollars in order to guarantee their continued stranglehold over a teacher’s grade reporting decisions.

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