Updated: Wednesday, 03 Dec 2008, 6:10 PM EST
Published : Wednesday, 03 Dec 2008, 11:56 AM EST
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOOD) - When high school students in Grand Rapids Public Schools fail a class this fall, they won't get an "F" or an "E" -- they'll get an "H."
"An 'H' is a failing grade," district spokesman John Helmholdt told 24 Hour News 8. But that new failing grade comes with second chance -- students who get an "H" will be able to re-take the class or the part of it they failed the next semester.
Principals discussed the plans with teachers before
Thanksgiving, administrators said. The district will offer Saturday
school, after school or online opportunities to retake the failed
Superintendent Bernard Taylor said he district didn't want to give students a "life failure," because of a failed class at age 14, 15 or 16 -- an age at which he says most people don't have their lives together.
But if a student fails to take advantage of those opportunities or doesn't succeed at them, the result will be a regular failing grade. A student's final transcript would not reflect the "H" grade.
Teachers union president Paul Helder isn't happy with the plan.
"It's not a second chance," Helder told 24 Hour News 8. "It's like a 22nd chance."
The union president said teachers already provide "an enormous amount of support to students" who are struggling with coursework. "We're not out to get anybody," he said, "but we do think that students need to learn some responsibility."
Administrators said the new requirements are a response to new state rules that set a stringent curriculum and mandate graduation in four years. Students need to be able to re-take failed courses in order to accomplish that, they said.
"We recognize that we have a higher-than-average dropout rate. Failure cannot be an option for students," Helmholdt said.
It's the latest in a series of changes as the district implements its "success only" plan. Helder and some teachers have said the plans relax standards.
"All we're doing is a simple communication to the parents," Helmholdt said, telling those parents that their children have failed courses but have an opportunity to change that. A letter will go out to parents explaining the changes .