Are there unofficial "quotas" on your high school student's grades?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by joeschmoe, Dec 20, 2013.

  1. joeschmoe

    joeschmoe Companion

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 20, 2013

    What I mean is that do administrators tend to look for a certain range of F's or D's? They can't come out and say they are looking for a certain pass rate, but there has got to be a certain percentage that makes them go hmm right?

    It's the end of the 1st semester of my 1st year of teaching. Out of 118 total students, I have 7 F's (6%) and 26 D's (22%). I try my best to warn my students and help them along the way, but man some of them simply don't give a ****. Some of my students ended the last 3-4 weeks of the semester turning in squat. They basically went from a passing to failing. It's like "Dude, so you want to squander the last 3 weeks and have to repeat an entire 20 weeks over again next year?" So frustrating!
     
  2.  
  3. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2011
    Messages:
    1,949
    Likes Received:
    17

    Dec 20, 2013

    Fail too many students and Admin will give you hell - especially if they are Seniors.
     
  4. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

    Joined:
    May 29, 2010
    Messages:
    913
    Likes Received:
    30

    Dec 20, 2013

    Our administration expects either a perfect bell curve, or as close to it as one can get, in EVERY, single class, or they will call us in and ask, "Now, what can we do to make you a better teacher?"

    The typical "passive-aggressive" B.S..


    :(
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    Dec 21, 2013

    Most of the teachers in my building keep an eye on the median grades. That, combined with keeping an eye on the failure rate, tends to keep the grades reasonable.

    I totally understand that some groups are simply better-- better background, more motivation, better skills--than others. But at some point, we're charged with meeting our kids on the level at which we find them, and bringing them to a higher level.

    OP, it's your first semester of your first year. Know that, as you grow in the profession, you'll become better at teaching. You'll learn how to reach those kids before they become D's and F's, how to engage them and help them to care. It's part of that huge learning curve.

    Since you asked the question, my guess is that you're concerned with your numbers. Speak to your mentor about it, ask for suggestions on what you can do next semester to better reach those failing and borderline kids.
     
  6. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    747
    Likes Received:
    143

    Dec 21, 2013

    I went through the same concerns my first year. here are some tips/thoughts - periodically have your department chair look over your tests/quizzes/etc. This will help you ensure your assessments are appropriate. Also talk to him/her and show him your gradebook - my school is small enough so that the chair knows the students that I teach for the most part. over 95% of the time, there is strong correlation between the grades earned in my class vs. grades earned in previous math classes. in other words, it's extremely rare for a previous D student to be an A student in my class and vice versa. There may be exceptions but they are extremely rare. Also, look at all the available test data that we have access too. Your students' grades should roughly correlate there as well. (An aside; do not use these scores as a predictor going forward as it may introduce bias into your grading and teaching - i.e. the Pygmalion effect. but they are a good tool for reflection after grades have been calculated).

    fwiw, my grade distribution is not a normal curve. if you plotted it, the distribution would be skewed slightly to the right. Last year's data, which included 3 separate math subjects, I had 20% of my students who received an F and 8% who earned an A. That's going from memory, I do not have my gradebook here at home.
    I did not receive any pressure from my admin.(see my last paragraph).

    This year, at midterm, my failure rate for the first semester was only 5%. What is different you might ask. Two years ago, we had an algebra teacher retire. The new teacher is awesome and our algebra test scores have improved tremendously. So my students are better prepared. I teach upper level HS math and algebra skills are a critical prerequisite.

    as I have mentioned elsewhere, this issue that you raise is where evaluations and observations can be a teacher's best friend (assuming that they are good reviews of course). if you receive high marks in these, it can help you in any conversations you may have with admin, parents, etc. about your grading policies.
     
  7. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2013
    Messages:
    437
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 21, 2013

    The implication seems to be, "When you're a veteran teacher, you'll know how to get to the kids who don't care before the apathy sets in and make sure they all pass."

    Is that truly realistic?
     
  8. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2010
    Messages:
    4,330
    Likes Received:
    572

    Dec 21, 2013

    I don't think it is realistic at all. Nor do I think that it comes down to "relationships" as many people try to claim. The belief that if you get the kids to like you, you will see better results.

    But, I do think that you can develop some work-arounds for some of the apathetic students. You can adjust your assignments, either assigning less homework or even more homework (this worked a bit for me this year). You can try group work assignments. Create more projects in class. Contact parents the second time a child turns something in late. Involve counselors and/or social workers.

    Some of that might work. Some of it won't. It will depend on the students.

    And, sad as it is to admit, some of what I do is pure CYA. If a child has missed 18 days on block scheduling, there is nothing I can do to bring up his grade. If an administrator wants to talk about his failure, I can point to the numerous contacts I've made to the social worker, graduation coach, counselors, etc., and ask him why nothing has been done about the excessive absences.
     
  9. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2013
    Messages:
    437
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 21, 2013

    I build relationships with students because it does generally make them more willing to work in my class; it also makes it a more enjoyable experience. However, I'm not delusional enough to believe that all students will pass my class just because they respect me as a teacher. Some will fail because even working a little bit harder isn't enough of a bump in work ethic for them to pass.

    I, also, document parent contact and administration contact bout certain students to make sure that I have clear support if an accusation is ever made that "I didn't do enough."
     
  10. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    747
    Likes Received:
    143

    Dec 21, 2013

    I don't know if that is what the poster that you quoted meant or not, but the idea of the "uber-teacher", who can ensure that every child succeeds - or at least passes, might be a myth that is damaging to the younger teachers. is it a lofty goal? Of course. Is it a realistic standard against which to judge one's teaching abilities? I doubt it.

    But if the child comes to you without the prerequisite skills, and is unwilling to put in extra work to learn both the new material and the basic math and algebra skills he/she has missed out on before, it's unrealistic to expect that child to succeed. Will a lot of teachers pass them anyway? Perhaps so, to avoid conflict with parents or admin or whatever. But has that child 'succeeded"?

    I love the relationship part of teaching. I enjoy almost every single student I teach. However I have found out that the solid relationship doesn't , in most cases, affect their skillset or willingness to do anymore than they have done in the past. (I can think of 2 exceptions to this statement). perhaps those 2 are reasons why we should strive for relationships but this is part of the job that comes naturally to me. I enjoy young people - but I grade based on math skills relative to a definitive set of standards and to a much, much lesser degree effort.

    again, to the younger teacher's, if you are unsure about your skills and abilities, check with your peers and the guidance counselor. It's easy enough to get benchmark data (not opinions) to tell if your grading policies "are too hard", if "you are a bad teacher", or if you have "weak students".
     
  11. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    Dec 21, 2013

    I give up.

    Please ignore my original post.

    Best of luck OP.
     
  12. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Messages:
    3,061
    Likes Received:
    538

    Dec 21, 2013

    I'll bite :p. Yes, I think it is truly realistic. I am by no means a veteran teacher... I'm on year 5... but students consistently flourish in my classroom. Everyone makes progress and has measurable achievement. I also work closely with the resource team to identify anything that might be impeding the students' progress early. As the grade 1 teacher I put a lot of pressure on myself to make families aware of resources and adaptations available for their children so they can all succeed at their level. Not everyone meets grade level expectations in every area by the end of the year - but the ones that don't are few and far between and usually have things going on beyond what my limited teaching skill set can reach.
     
  13. CindyBlue

    CindyBlue Cohort

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2004
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    20

    Dec 21, 2013

    Why do you "give up", Aliceacc?
    Haven't you said that the kids in your school are highly motivated, and there is a waiting list to get in? Not every school is like that, and not every kid in every school can be motivated enough by the teacher to prevent them from earning a D or an F. Some kids - lots of kids - just don't care about school. It's taken me years and years of teaching to finally admit this. It doesn't stop me from trying mightily to help them, but for some, the time and energy I have available to help them isn't enough to motivate them to do the work they need to do to pass. Also - sometimes students just do not have the prerequisite knowledge to succeed in some high school classes. Without that student having - or developing - intense and effective personal motivation at that time (high school), he/she will not succeed no matter how dedicated the classroom teacher with five or more classes of 20 or 30 or more students can be.
     
  14. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2013
    Messages:
    618
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 21, 2013

    I agree with this. It has everything to do with the school. environment.

    I teach in a school similar Aliceacc's, and I can say, that if a teacher in my school had as many students as the OP with Ds and Fs, it would generally, with maybe a slight few exceptions, be something that the teacher could do a lot to fix. I don't want to say it would be the teacher's fault, but most of my kids care about learning, or at the very least about their grades, so I only get maybe 4-5 kids (out of 120 or so) per year with grades below a C-...and my math classes aren't that easy!
    On the other hand, in a school where kids are fighting to meet their basic needs, it could be that the OP's rates are actually a huge success. I think it has everything to do with the school environment!
     
  15. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    747
    Likes Received:
    143

    Dec 21, 2013

    I think you and the poster above you have summarized it very well...I think the environment in which one teaches has a significant impact on their perception of things. In this profession, there is no "one size fits all" answers.
     
  16. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2011
    Messages:
    1,949
    Likes Received:
    17

    Dec 21, 2013

    Preach!

    A miracle worker couldn't motivate some of the kids I have; they only come to school because their parents force them to. Just because a child walks through the school doors in the morning, it does not mean they are there to learn. Many students don't bother to skip school because they have nothing better to do if all their friends are at school. So, instead, they come to school and just cut class all day or they go to class and do NOTHING. They don't even bother to pretend.
     
  17. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2012
    Messages:
    1,600
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 21, 2013

    This.
     
  18. joeschmoe

    joeschmoe Companion

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 22, 2013

    I ask myself all the time whether their grades are a reflection of my teaching or a reflection of their effort and ability. I think I can do a much better job. But I'm not going to absolve my student's from their responsibilities either. I have 11th-12th grades students who come to me and can't solve a basic algebraic equation. I teach introductory physics and every student is required to take it, not just the smart kids. I often tell my students if they've gotten this far in the problem, then it's all algebra at this point that they're not getting, not the physics. The turn in rate of some assignments are atrocious at times. Some of my students missed the next higher grade because they didn't turn in the last homework assignment. Yup. You missed that C or B because you didn't feel like doing homework.


    Looking back at my student's who have F's, I can say for certain at least 4 of them failed just about every other classes besides mine. I have access to their school data so I can see what they're earning in each and every class. It's the D students that I'm actually more concern about and question whether they could have gotten C's.
     
  19. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2010
    Messages:
    4,330
    Likes Received:
    572

    Dec 22, 2013

    Kids tend to do worse in my subject than in others. But if a student has straight As in every class and has a low D in mine, some investigation needs to take place.

    It is understood that my class is harder for many, and requires more work on the part of the student. Typically, though, the students that fail my class have failed classes before. I try to make it easy to pass, IF the student is willing to do his/her part.
     
  20. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    747
    Likes Received:
    143

    Dec 22, 2013

    the data is your friend. Use it. everything else is just opinions.

    as an engineering colleague of mine always said: "in God we trust. everyone else must bring data." :)
     
  21. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Messages:
    4,960
    Likes Received:
    1,148

    Dec 22, 2013

    I have a bell curve in all but 1 class. I feel 100 % that my students' grades are what they have earned. For those who have ended up with Fs or Ds, I gave them plenty of opportunity to bring up their grades.
    With my student population it would be almost normal to have a lot of students failing, but that is not the case. My academic expectations are high, but obtainable, and the only students actually failed were those who would not do any work at all or would be absent to much to actually get work done.

    I do think though that if you have a class where the student average is 60 some % and a lot of students are failing, something should be done. Maybe the students are not getting it? Maybe it's behavior issues? (the one behaviorally challenged class of mine had the most students with Fs) how about the assessments?
    Administration will probably ask those questions, and teachers should at least have an answer. My P didn't even question those Fs in my one class, but if she did, I would have an answer that accounts for each and every student's failure, and my attempts to not let them fail.
     
  22. joeschmoe

    joeschmoe Companion

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 22, 2013



    I went back and took a look at the data per class as well as overall. These are my numbers.

    http://imgur.com/YBaPdcR

    Overall, the total represents an almost perfect bell curve. Each individual classes, on the other hand, varies.

    What do you think?
     
  23. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2013
    Messages:
    437
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 22, 2013

    I don't know that a bell curve is necessarily the "best" distribution in each class.

    It probably depends upon the academic rigor of the curriculum and the individual makeup of students.

    There's probably not a generic "best" distribution for grades; as long as the curriculum is rigorous and aligned with standards and standardized assessments, and the grades are representative of student mastery of that curriculum, any distribution should theoretically be acceptable.
     
  24. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Messages:
    4,960
    Likes Received:
    1,148

    Dec 22, 2013

    I think if you look at it overall, it's great.
    You might have factors out of your control in individual classes that make it different.
    For example at my school (and others in my district with similar students) 1st period often has a lot of Fs, simply due to attendance. If you're not in class, you can't possibly pass it.
    Other reasons can include grouping of students, for example you might have one class with lover level students, so obviously you'll have more Ds and Fs, and less great grades.
    When I was student teaching I had 2 block classes (English) one higher, one a bit lower level. almost every single test / quiz there was a 10 % difference in the average.
    Behavior? If you have a rough class, it is harder for them to learn and their grades will reflect it.

    why do you think your last period class so much better grades?
     
  25. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Messages:
    4,960
    Likes Received:
    1,148

    Dec 22, 2013

    I agree, I'm not saying it's the best, but I think it's pretty natural, especially if you have random students in the class.

    In an honors class I wouldn't expect a bell curve across grade, I'd expect mostly As, Bs and some Cs. In an intervention class, or one that is extremely low level, the grades will probably be lower, and not in a bell shape.
     
  26. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2013
    Messages:
    437
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 22, 2013

    Mine is an inclusion class; we have a bimodal distribution of students who are regular ed and higher ability and students who are on IEPs and struggle with written expression and reading.
     
  27. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2013
    Messages:
    618
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 22, 2013

    I have 3 inclusion classes. Two of them are as you describe, but in one of the classes the IEP students are outperforming the general ed students by about 5% overall.
     
  28. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2013
    Messages:
    618
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 22, 2013

    Our department is trying to move away from the honors classes being mostly As and Bs. My supervisor thinks some kids should still be on the low end (i.e. low Cs and Ds) even in honors classes, and that honors shouldn't mean all good grades, but rather, a significantly greater challenge. I don't know how I feel about that.
     
  29. joeschmoe

    joeschmoe Companion

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 22, 2013



    you hit the nail on the head in regards to 1st period problems. By far, attendance and tardiness in my 1st period is a far bigger problem than the other periods. But at the same time, I also want to take responsibility for them being the guinea pig to my lessons. More often than not, I make mistakes during 1st period or find better ways to approach the lesson after 1st period.

    As for the last class, the reason why they do so much better is because they're at or above grade level. The other class periods are operating at below grade level.
     
  30. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2013
    Messages:
    4,299
    Likes Received:
    876

    Dec 22, 2013

    That reminds me of my first principal, who insisted first of all that any child with an IEP could never earn above a C, no matter what, if they had a goal in a particular area, and who demanded that all teachers make giving C's their default (A's and B's mean that you aren't challenging them). Any A's or B's, you had to go down to her and explain what you were going to do to get them down to a C.
     
  31. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2013
    Messages:
    618
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 22, 2013

    Well, it's not that extreme..As and Bs can obviously be given...just that honors classes should have a low end too. In the past, most of our honors teachers (I don't teach honors) pretty gave all As and Bs with the occasional C+.
     
  32. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2010
    Messages:
    4,330
    Likes Received:
    572

    Dec 22, 2013

    Or maybe it is because of the school climate regarding course selection. If my advanced courses were filled with truly advanced students, then the average students would be in my regular classes. I would have a normal distribution of grades.

    But since the average, slightly below average and advanced students take up seats in my advanced classes, that leaves the vast majority of my on-level seats being taken up by well below average and slightly below average students. They are still responsible for the curriculum and final exam, even if they do not have the skills needed to pass the course. Because they have been passed along for years before they get to high school, they not only come to me unable to read (many of them) but also expecting to pass yet another class without having to put forth any effort (most).

    As such, my class average for on-level courses is very low. Sometimes below passing. I have a few students that have less than a 30 average in my class. No teacher, without compromising standards, would be able to get a bell-shaped curve in such a class.
     
  33. Bridgebuilder

    Bridgebuilder Rookie

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2013
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 23, 2013

    You might suggest they consult someone who understands even basic statistics. Bell curves only apply with randomly chosen groups. There's no particular reason that any classroom would naturally have a bell curve distribution, so forcing it onto a classroom is unfair, and full of errors.

    The truth about why bell curves are sometimes used is to compensate for a broken evaluation system, or poor testing, when the measurement device is suspect.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. RainStorm
Total: 248 (members: 2, guests: 222, robots: 24)
test