“If they’re not failing, then you’re not teaching”

This scenario from Schoolhouse Dilemmas: Scenarios for Mentoring Secondary Teachers is found in Chapter Six: Grading and Assessment Philosophies. I base it on an incident involving a colleague and her intern. The colleague had printed out the students’ grades and circled all of the “A’s” and had written, “WHAT THE HELL?!?” on the report. I’ve also known teachers who wanted a certain number of failing grades while limiting the number of “A’s” to one, possibly two.

In this situation, what would you say to the colleague? How do you know that students have earned the grades they’ve been assigned? How much should the students’ future classes dictate your curricular and grading choices?

“If they’re not failing, then you’re not teaching!”

You are at the end of your first semester at your new high school. In accordance with school policy, you have posted your class’s final grades outside your door. Relieved to have put this semester to bed, you stroll into your department’s break room, pour a cup of coffee, and take a seat at your desk. But before long, a colleague approaches you and asks if you have a moment to chat.

“Um, some of us noticed the grades you gave,” she begins. “I don’t know what experience you’ve had in the past, but at this school we do NOT give that many A’s in one class. And I cannot believe that no one failed.”

You try to explain that everyone did their work and earned the grades they received, but your colleague responds by saying, “Well, your standards must not be as high as ours. Those kids will hate you when they go to the next grade and find that they’re unprepared.”


For further reflection, read my Edueto article: “Do You Know What You’re Doing as a Grader?”

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