A hearing is set Monday for a lawsuit that accuses the head of the Texas Education Agency of wrongly interpreting a new law that bars minimum grading policies.

Commissioner Robert Scott is being sued by 11 districts, mostly in the Houston area, over a law that requires teachers to assign a grade that reflects a student’s “mastery of an assignment.”

Scott wrote a letter to school superintendents saying the law extended to report cards, not just assignments, and schools needed to assign honest grades.

Some districts have long had policies that establish minimum grades of 50, 60 or even 70 for assignments and report cards. That means if a student failed and earned a zero, his or her grade would be automatically brought up to the minimum score.

School officials opposed to the law argue that if students are assigned a zero or other low grades, it would be impossible for them to pass even if they showed improvement. They also were concerned about higher dropout rates.

The districts argue that the law should only apply to assignments.

“We believe that the commissioner misinterpreted it,” Jonathan Brush, the school districts’2 bing Court Hearing Set On Texas Minimum Grade Ban attorney, said of the law. “He is without the authority to make that determination.”

Linda Henrie, the Mesquite superintendent, said districts would prefer to be able to set their own policies.

“You do have situations where the student makes a really low grade and decides to turn things around and work hard,” Henrie said. “If that average is too low, it’s an impossible situation.”

The lawsuit will be heard in Travis County district court in Austin.

(© 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

More From CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Drip Pan: CBS Local App
Drip Pan: Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE