As this historic school year winds down, some painful problems have raised their head. One issue is so bad that I feel we need to address it with the legislature: student accountability when it comes to classwork.
Teachers across the state have reached out, telling horror stories of administrations that forced them to give students passing grades for grading cycles that were not affected by the COVID distance learning.
What was their reasoning? Some just said it was the right thing to do. Others said that students might not have a chance to pass in the second semester, so change the grade for their first semester. The strange thing is that some of these schools were giving a pass-fail grade, and if the student turned in an assignment, they would pass with a 100. So how were they not going to average pass those grades to a passing grade if they were using a 100?
In one situation, the students never logged on to the program or answered a Remind message, email, or phone call. Calls to parents went unanswered, yet the teacher is being told to give out passing grades. How is this going to help the student?
Please know that this has been a challenging time. Stress levels for everyone have gone up. Students who deal with anxiety are now having full-blown anxiety attacks. Parents were dealing with job loss, difficulty finding groceries, and a wide array of other issues. We need to show compassion, empathy, and flexibility to help our students.
Also, note that these issues are NOT new ones. Teachers have been struggling with this for years. The dreaded principal meeting to discuss your failure rate is one that most teachers know too well. Surely, you did something that caused this, not the student.
The result is that too many of us—I’m guilty as well—have passed some students just to lower the failure rate, even though the students truly did deserve a failing grade. This was largely due to the student neglecting to either do the work or turn it in. I have asked students before why they do not work, and the student replies, “Ms. Collum, we know that it’s you, the teachers, who get in trouble, so teachers will just pass us. Why do the work?”
Many know this by the common name of “social promotion.” Promoting students who are not performing well at the lower grade will only be further behind in the next grade. This leads to students who will be increasingly disruptive, challenging their teachers. As a result, any love of learning will leave the student.
It is time to take back the classroom, giving teachers the power to accurately grade student performance without fear of retaliation, write-ups, or dismissals.
Students need to learn responsibility and the consequences of not doing assignments. Could you imagine if students were actually doing assignments and learning? Wouldn’t that help test scores and reading levels, as well as reduce stress and behavior issues?
The distant learning took an already abused issue and gave it steroids. What will be the results further down the line?
Grades can be more than just a number. They can show a student’s mastery of a topic. Grades can also teach students about working towards a goal. In the quest to not stress out students, we have actually taken away the important lessons they learn when they complete assignments.
If you feel that teachers need to be respected and that grades should accurately reflect student performance, please consider signing our petition: Accurate Grades Reporting.