Mt. Olive school district in New Jersey has abolished the grade of D. At first I thought this was an instance of grade inflation, or self-esteem inflation. As I read their reasons, though, I am not sure what to think.
The district thought some students were calculating what they needed to just scrape by, and doing the minimum. This is undoubtedly true. The school figured that if they raised the minimum, those kids would raise their level of work, too. This is also probably true.
I learned some years ago a scale of what grades mean that I have found helpful.
A = Demonstrates excellence
B = Demonstrates competence
C = Suggests competence [this is the heart of the system]
D = Suggests incompetence
E, F, U = Demonstrates incompetence
In my classes, the difference between a D and a C is almost always a matter of working harder, not of having sufficient brainpower. When I spell out how I interpret a C vs. a D, this often gets the slackers to work a bit harder.
Still, I am sure that if the next step below "suggests competence" was "demonstrates incompetence," those same students would work harder still.
Do perhaps we do not need the D.
I would welcome your thoughts.