Shiprock High School educators since January have refused to give students zeros on their assignments, even if the students don't turn in their assignments.
The policy went into effect after the school's new principal, Rick Edwards, sent out a letter to teachers just before the beginning of the semester.
"Do we give ZEROS? · NO, a 50% will be entered in place of zeros. No grade lower than 50% will be entered," Edwards wrote in a Jan. 7 letter obtained first by KOB TV.
The district is standing behind the policy, and may implement it at all other schools in the district, district spokesman James Preminger said Friday.
"If Kirtland and Newcomb don't (already have it), they should," Preminger said.
The policy maintains that all grades will be above 50 percent so that students can recover from poor performance, he said.
The grading scale will be balanced out, he said, since all other grades A through D are separated by only 10 points. An "A," for example, can be worth between 90 and 100 points. A "B" can be worth between 80 and 90 points, and so on.
An "F," on the other hand, can be between 0 and 59 points. Based on the state Public Education Department's grading scale, a 50 percent — now the lowest grade a student can get at Shiprock High School — still is a failing grade.
"If you get a 50, you still fail. But it's recoverable," Preminger said.
Many locals do not approve of the new policy, however.
Daily Times readers expressed their overwhelming opposition on Facebook, saying the policy taught poor values and was disrespectful to students who did do their work and did earn more than a zero.
"I think it doesn't help anyone," said T-Jay Yazzie, a senior civil engineering student at the University of New Mexico and a graduate of Kirtland Central High School.
"In high school, I had to work hard to earn my scholarships. It paid off," he said. "If we got a 50 in high school, we still had to work for it. The students who try, it's unfair to them."
Others accused the district and the school of lowering standards for the students, and of settling for mediocrity — for both students and educators.
Still, the district stands by the policy, a policy which state officials said they were not aware of.
"We wish we could take credit, but we believe it is being used around the country," Preminger said, though he could not give examples of any schools or districts doing so. "It embraces progressive thinking, and this is a move in the right direction."