Should we drop grades
Should we be averaging grades? Picture by Thomas Guskey

This graphic by Thomas Guskey Thomas Guskey is a fantastic challenge to whether we should be averaging grades — or honestly, if we shouldn't just drop some BEFORE we average.

ONE THING I wish I could stop would be teachers who REFUSE TO DROP ANY GRADES EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Are you kidding? Who doesn't have a bad day?

I guess it teaches “a lesson”, but I'm not sure what? A zero KILLS an average. It just KILLS it.

I've lived through having one of my children make all A's and come back to school after an illness and bomb a test. The teacher wouldn't drop the grade. She puffed up her chest when I asked and said,

“I never drop grades. It teaches responsibility. Plus, I'm a tough teacher. They need to know I mean business.”

My answer:

“My child shows by his test score that he doesn't KNOW the material. Even if you decide to keep the grade, when are you going to TEACH it to him? Or can you give me the material so I can teach it to him?”

The answer was that it was time to move on. Are you kidding? TEACH. A zero is a battle cry to get busy and make sure they learn. Do something. But don't just MOVE ON.

Ok, I am a teacher. I TEACH. I want kids to LEARN SOMETHING. I find that if a child makes a very low grade, I'm better off to call in the child and reteach and then do as I see fit. Sometimes I'll give another test and average the two together. It depends on the situation.

Rae Pica said it well, and I paraphrase, We know that two snowflakes aren't alike, then why do we think two kids will ever be alike?

Plus, if a child fails, I blame myself as much as the child.

I do tell kids I'm the scorekeeper. But I'm also the coach. I'm also the one who tells them to get back in the game and learn when they want to quit. I want to give everything I can to teach so they can learn.

But, in my opinion, letting a child just make a zero without following up, without additional teaching, without looking at the circumstances should reflect on me as a teacher. I'm not sure what you've seen, but in my experience, refusing to drop grades or evaluate the individual circumstances of a child makes me angry.

You can call me a softie. You can call me whatever you want. But you doggone well better call me a teacher. Because, in the end, they'll learn what I have to teach no matter what it takes, they'll learn. And that, to me, is what counts.

I'm a teacher.

Sometimes kids don't need another person being harsh, what they really need is a second chance. As for me, I'm all about more chances to learn, even if it is more work on me.

As for me, I'm all about more chances to learn, even if it is more work on me.

I'm curious, what are your thoughts? If you don't drop grades, how do you make sure that kids still learn the material? Please share. Perhaps there's something I'm missing here.

This epic graphic was created by Thomas Guskey @tguskey and shared today on Justin Tarte's blog(If you're not reading Justin's blog and following him on Twitter, you really should.)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “Should we be averaging grades? Picture by Thomas Guskey

  1. Vicky,

    Obviously the students with the high grades didn’t turn in the assessment/assignment. I presume that the assessment/assignment covered required content standards, which the students will likely see again on the state mandated standardized test. If students didn’t turn in this assignment then the teacher has no way to know if the student understands the content standards.

    It does not reflect well on a teacher if her students have very high class averages but perform poorly on the big standardized test. As such, dropping the zero would not be a prudent decision by the teacher. My district sidesteps this issue by allowing students to submit late work (or test corrections) for half credit. If the student chooses not to turn in the work (or make up the test) then the blame lies with the student.

    Chris Carlisle

    • There are those who don’t turn in assignments because they chose not to do the assignment. But there are those who didn’t turn in the assignment for other reasons. Maybe they didn’t realize it was due. Maybe they have an LD and were confused or misplaced the paper. If they don’t turn it in, the teacher has no way to know what the student knows, but does that mean the teacher will refuse to take it late? What if the child finds it late or completes the work late? Of course it reflects poorly if they have high class averages but don’t know how to do it, but if the teacher just puts in the zero and moves on without understanding what the child knows and helps them, then how can the child know it? I think the question is are you grading their ability to turn in the paper in on a timely basis or their ability to be organized or are you grading what they KNOW. My biggest point is that students should be worked with to TEACH them. This means sometimes we work with them when they turn a paper in a day late.

    • Yes, Completely disagree with this grading system. Teacher must have either teach child by giving extra classes, or provide the assignment material so that parents can teach child. Knowledge is more important than grading.

  2. I personally feel like you feel in the situation that the students grades also reflect on you as the teacher. I do not give zeros to my students unless several attempts have been made to get the assignment and I have not been able to get it. I will spend the time to reteach the material to the student. Even if my students get a poor grade on something I do go back and reteach them and will use a different assessment and re enter the grade. Now if the students are getting a good grade but do poorly on the standardized testing then that is a different issue. As a teacher I feel like the tests need to live up to the standardized tests or what is the point in assessing them over it. They will not know how to handle the material properly unless it is being taught to them exactly how it should be being taught to them. It is okay for a student to have a bad day and have a bad test it is not okay to alter their grade so that you do not look bad as the teacher. If you are altering the grade so that you do not look bad eventually when it comes time for the standardized test it is going to be you that looks bad for not preparing them for the test.

    • Yes, Kimberly and this is such a fine and difficult balance that you’ve changed so well. I always tell my students that I’m the scorekeeper — I don’t give grades, they earn them. But I believe a zero is a red flag and I’m going to get ahead and work to help them when they struggle and not just leave the zero for no reason! Thank you for voicing so well what I totally agree with!