True grades

Texas schools can’t make teachers give students grades they didn’t earn, District Judge Gisela Triana-Doyal has ruled. A state law requires truthful grades determined by teachers. Eleven school districts had argued the law applies only to grades on assignments, not semester grades or six- or nine-week averages.

Some districts have made 50 the minimum score so students won’t give up on passing because of “catastrophic failure in one marking period,”  writes Greg of Rhymes With Right. But the minimum score encouraged slackers.

For example, I had more than one kid who decided to “take a six-week off” (our semester has three six-week marking periods) at the end of a semester because they knew that they could not lose credit for the class (a couple of Bs and a 50 will get you a passing grade). In other instances, which were much more common, we found ourselves forced to give students who had appeared in our class only once or twice in an entire semester a 50, despite never having received a single assignment from them. It wasn’t even a case of getting a 50 just for showing up — it was getting a 50 for having your name in the grade book!

Greg, a social teacher, hopes this will “mean the end of districts and administrators suggesting that teachers who want to give students the grades that they actually earn need to leave the profession because ‘you just want to fail kids’.”

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  1. Too bad we don’t have this law in Connecticut. I was recently told by a teacher that the principal forces them to fake the grades by giving all stellar grades so the parents and town are happy with the school’s performance. When I heard that I was happy I homeschool my kids. The only thing worse than a kid in school not learning is one who comes home with A grades who really hasn’t learned anything. What I ask, is the point of schooling if the students are not learning and the parents are tricked into believing their kids are brilliant? Pathetic!

  2. Ex-PhysicsTeacher says:

    I theorize that this line of thinking occurs because education school requires little more than a pulse (and a checkbook) so most of your education leadership is used to getting straight A’s in “graduate” school, as well as seeing A’s all around them, that they think that anything else is somehow wrong.

    My ex-boss would claim that giving bad grades to kids would make them “shut down”. I never saw anything of the sort. In fact, nothing seemed to motivate students (especially seniors) more.

    What’s funnier, is that the ex-boss was a complete ZEALOT when it came to failing kids for attendance. So, in her head, a lazy ignorant kid didn’t deserve his F, but a smart hardworking kid, who happened to have missed one too many days of school and who happened to have non-English speaking parents who screwed up when it came to writing excuses just HAD TO BE GIVEN AN F.

    I had some kids who skipped chronically, and were lousy students, but somehow their absences always got excused. But I couldn’t give them an F.

  3. tim-10-ber says:

    Man oh Man..why is everyone scared to give the kid the grade they deserve? Did they turn in the work? No. Give them a zero. Did they do anything on a test or a project? Please give them zero!

    When my younger son got a zero on a test in 8th grade algebra I it sure got my attention. Of course the darn teacher did not even let me know nor did she offer to help. This for a child who until that test had done well…she could have cared less. Working longer hours would have violated her darn contract and she wouldn’t have been paid. UGH!! Glad she is gone and hopefully gone from teaching!

  4. Ex-PhysicsTeacher says:


    Don’t be so hard on the teacher. Haven’t you been paying attention? When kids don’t do the work it’s because the teacher didn’t “inspire”, “engage”, or otherwise wow them. Giving a kid a bad grade is the same as hanging a sign on yourself with “I suck at teaching, please fire me” written on it.

    And if you kid gets a zero doesn’t it indicate that HE should do more work and not the teacher, apart from letting you know.

    With an attitude like yours you deserve the teachers you get.

    When I was teaching I would arrive at the school at 5:30 am and more often than not return home till after 8:00 pm. I barely saw my own son. Just how much more work do you expect from people for the piddly sum teachers typically make?

  5. There are a few times when I’m thankful I teach in California. This is one of those times. From ed code:

    49066. (a) When grades are given for any course of instruction
    taught in a school district, the grade given to each pupil shall be
    the grade determined by the teacher of the course and the
    determination of the pupil’s grade by the teacher, in the absence of clerical or mechanical mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetency, shall be final.

  6. Thank the judge in Texas for this one! Let’s hear it for teachers giving honest grades to students. When did that become controversial? Where is the credible research to support the notion that giving a student an automatic 50 (that she did not earn) will keep her from dropping out of school? I have not seen it. Good teaching and learning and support from home will do the job. Not fake grades.

  7. Requiring teachers to give students at least a 50, whether or not they did the work makes it harder for parents to support and monitor their kids work.

    If you don’t know that the kids will automatically get a 50, I could easily see a parent thinking “Well, they didn’t do great, but they did or they understood half of what they were supposed to.”

    It’s hard to see how an automatic 50 policy could have a positive effect.

  8. SuperSub says:

    The 50-minimum policy is another example of something that can be useful if used sparingly on a case-by-case basis by a teacher who knows their students, but if implemented as a district-wide policy becomes a cluster____ (fill in with your choice of term).

  9. I don’t see the problem with the “automatic 50”. If you don’t grade work on a 5 point scale, the effect of a 0 is catastrophic. There’s actually a lot of research behind the 50% F. It’s not invented out of thin air by the districts.

    So if you’re a teacher who grades homework on a ten point scale, it’s rare you give fewer than 6 points for homework. Yet a kid who doesn’t do the homework gets a 0–even though you’d never grade the rest of the work on a 10-point scale.

    Tests are a little different–I often have kids who get 10 or 20% on tests, so a 0 is quite possible with a 100 point scale.

    And please, give me a break about the fabulous, honest teachers who are trying to report reality while the meeeeeeean school districts make them lie.

    I know many teachers who flunk perfectly competent kids in math because they didn’t do their homework, and pass many kids who did all their homework and din’t understand a thing.

    Grades are a fraud. Until they are backed up with an end of year test that determines ability, they will continue to be a fraud.

  10. Too many teachers give FAR too much weight to homework – even homework that is not in the student’s handwriting!!!!

    My son received a B+ in honors algebra 2, even though all of his tests and quizzes were over 95%, because he hadn’t done all his homework. He went on to get an 800 on the SAT II math and a 5 on the AP Calc BC tests, so he very clearly knew the material well. A classmate received an A because her homework was complete (not in her handwriting), even though she had only a couple of Cs on quizzes and no grade above D on tests. We had no complaint about his grade until we saw hers; I find such a grading policy (it was the teacher’s, not forced by school, although they did want pretty good weight on homework) beyond appalling; it’s educational malpractice, completely divorced from the concept of mastering the material and is intellectually dishonest. He wasn’t the only teacher who had that policy, either; there are far too many who are willing to do this sort of thing.

  11. it’s educational malpractice, completely divorced from the concept of mastering the material and is intellectually dishonest.


    I was the only teacher at my last job who weighted tests 70%. Everyone else weighted tests 40%, homework 40 or 50%, and the rest of it “participation”. It was easy to extra credit your way to an A.

    Sare me the nonsense about teachers being the upright bastions of truth in grading. It’s nonsense. Teachers are notoriously dishonest.

  12. SuperSub says:

    Even better, do 70% tests with objective-based assessment like multiple choice…

  13. Clarification: “Teachers are notoriously dishonest.”

    Apologies–this looks terrible and isn’t what I meant. I meant that teachers are notoriously unreliable, for the reasons I’d already mentioned.

  14. Grades should reflect some indication about student mastery of the material taught. Accordingly, my grading scale is as follows:
    Semester final exam: 10%
    Chapter tests: 40%
    Weekly quizzes: 30%
    Homework: 20%

    It may not be perfect, and it might be tweaked here and there, but it’s definitely geared more towards measuring achievement than it is towards rewarding effort.

  15. In the absence of an identified disability or an injury (writing hand in cast, eye injury etc), I recommend giving no credit to homework that’s not in the kid’s handwriting. Let’s at least try to pretend the kid did the work before giving credit for it.


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