▶️ ‘D means diploma’: Bend-La Pine teachers want end to 50% minimum grade


More than 100 anonymous Bend-La Pine high school teachers are frustrated that a 50% grading floor is still in place.

The policy, which makes the lowest grade a student can receive 50%, was put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic and some teachers worry it will become permanent.

Summit High School teacher and track coach Dave Turnbull says the purpose was to help students be successful online and in-person.

“They put a 50% floor in there, hoping that kids would have some hope in getting their grades back up and I think it benefitted the students at that time,” Turnbull said. “But I think it’s time to now look at accountability. Student accountability.”

Central Oregon Daily News was sent an anonymous letter, sharing concerns about this policy.

“Dear Bend-La Pine District Leaders:

We are writing to ask you to remove the 50% grading floor that teachers were required to implement on all assignments over the past two school years. While this may have seemed necessary during the pandemic, we are wrapping up a school year in which the district has been able to hold in-person instruction without interruption. This year about 50% of Bend-La Pine high school students have been chronically absent meaning they have attended school less than 90% of the time. We feel that the 50% rule has contributed to the chronic absenteeism that has made it very difficult for teachers to ensure every student can master the skills and content necessary to succeed in high school and beyond. Quite simply, fewer students are coming to school and fewer students are completing assignments due to this policy.

Many staff and families feel that grades no longer reflect what students are actually learning. We understand our goal of equity to meet each student’s diverse learning needs. In a misguided attempt to achieve equity, this policy has masked the challenges struggling students’ face, not addressed their needs.”

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We are told over 100 high school teachers have signed, including Turnbull.

“If you already have 50% for not turning in anything, the motivation to turn in anything just to pass is really not there,” Turnbull said. “I mean, I can turn in one assignment and get a D? D means diploma.”

Summit High School teacher and track coach Dave Turnbull.

Bend-La Pine School District response

We informed the school district about this letter and received a statement from Deputy Superintendent Lora Nordquist.

“A decision has yet to be made if the 50% grading floor policy will be adjusted next year,” Nordquist said. “Our Equitable Grading Team, a group of 35 middle and high school teachers and administrators have been working for the past year to research equitable grading practices. The goal of this work is to ensure that the grades students receive accurately reflect their overall learning. Our hope is to share the full recommendations, and any possible associated administrative regulation changes, after that process is complete.

If the 50% minimum is still in place next school year, Turnbull says he would have serious thoughts of early retirement.

“If I can’t hold students accountable and I can’t feel good about what I’m doing in the classroom,” Turnbull said. “Then maybe I shouldn’t be a teacher.”

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