FARMINGTON — Shiprock High School is backing out of its "no-zero" grading policy, for now.

The school implemented a policy in January that prohibited teachers from giving students zeros on daily assignments. Instead, teachers could give students grades no lower than 50 percent, even if the assignments were not turned in or were incomplete.

"From all appearances, this is missing the mark," said Hanna Skandera, secretary-designate of the New Mexico Public Education Department, on Friday.

The policy attracted much criticism from students, parents and educators. Many district employees were not aware of the policy, nor were parents, members of the district administration or the district board of education.

"No other schools are given special breaks in the grading system in the State of New Mexico," wrote Donovan Begay, a parent with four children enrolled in the district.

Begay sent a letter of formal complaint about the policy to the Public Education Department on Feb. 18.

The department will be looking into the policy once it receives the complaint, Skandera said, and will talk to the district if need be, since the school and district could use the policy in the next school year.

Yet, district Superintendent Don Levinksi stood behind the school's new policy and said that other high schools in the Central Consolidated School District should have the same policy if they did not already, according to district spokesman James Preminger.


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Shiprock High School, however, no longer is going to use the policy, Preminger said Friday.

The school is reversing the policy not because of the criticism it received, but because it had issues putting the policy into place in the middle of the school year. It disrupted both class rankings and PowerSchool, the online grading system.

Any grades that would have been below 50 percent to reflect the new policy will be changed to the lower grade, as if the policy never had been implemented.

"We don't see it affecting students right now because we implemented it just last month," Preminger said, noting that the turn-around of the policy should not greatly change students' current standings.

"We still think it's a good idea," he said, noting that the policy may return next school year.

The district is going to study the possibility of using the policy further, even though teachers, parents and students seem overwhelmingly opposed — not to mention the state public education department.

Preminger said neither the school nor the district heard from parents or community members about the policy in the past two months that it has been in place. No public comment was allowed, however, at the district board meeting this week. More than 100 people offered their opinion, on the other hand, on The Daily Times Facebook page in the past week.

"The policy is to improve the grade, but it doesn't improve the learning. There's a difference between grading and learning," Begay said in an interview at the recent board meeting. "There's no public comment (at the district board meeting) because this issue came up. There's no other way for us to talk about it."

Though the school and the district for the time being are ditching the new policy, they maintain it has merit because it provides students a way to recover from poor grades.

The policy is not intended to allow students to get by without making an effort, Preminger said.

"An F is still an F," he said, noting that a 50 percent still is a failing grade according to the Public Education Department.

Parents and students, however, overwhelmingly felt that the policy would take away from the effort put forward by hard-working students and would reward students that did not try at all, according to Facebook comments from Daily Times readers.

If the policy is reinstated, however, it may not get very far.

"I think life does not work like that," Skandera said. "It's not the message we want to send. We want to send the message that we want to set the expectations high, and we think that you can meet them."

Jenny Kane can be reached at jkane@daily-times.com; 564-4636. Follow Kane on Twitter @Jenny_Kane