The United States is a nation built on competition. Americans compete for jobs — both to gain them and, because of local or global competition, to keep those jobs. They need to develop that competitive spirit while they are young.
In school, athletes compete on the field, court or track. Musicians compete in state contests. Thespians compete for roles. Others compete in spelling bees, speech contests and other competitions. That's all good.
So East Chicago School Superintendent Michael Harding's "no grade" policy makes no sense.
Harding said programs designed to help students catch up with their peers — credit recovery, tutoring, double-block math classes and the like — are needed to allow students to graduate.
"It's easy to fail a student and walk away," Harding said. "We will give a student an A, B, C or no grade. It forces a child to do what is necessary to meet the standards. It places the responsibility on students for their grades, putting the onus on students/parents rather than teachers/schools for the grades that students earn."
That's the theory, but the implementation sounds like it's different.
Central High School social worker John Zarlengo told the School Board on June 12 he heard reports that many of the students who took the credit recovery exams did so at home without any adult supervision. Some of them even paid fellow students to take the test for them, he said.
That must change immediately.
The no-grade policy should change as well. Under-performing students need hope, and alternatives, but not at the expense of their peers.
A better answer would be to give them the D or F they deserve, then offer an opportunity to try that class again after getting remedial help. The second grade — presumably higher than the first — would then be noted as well as the first. That gives a more true indication of the student's ability and results.
That also would help the top-performing and average students, by not giving the under-performing students the artificial boost that the "no grade" policy gives them on their GPA.
It also would motivate under-performing students who would then know their initial efforts still count, so they shouldn't goof off, thinking they will still be able to get the same grade later, and easier, with the credit recovery program.
Programs offering extra help should be available, but the "no grades" philosophy cheapens the value of working hard and getting good grades the first time.