I'm hoping for some feedback from this thoughtful group. My 11 year old daughter is demoralized about a 5th/6th grade history teacher's grading standards, and I've arranged an appointment with her teacher. We meet on Wednesday, with the middle school principal, so any feedback or tips here greatly appreciated. My daughter recently took a 6th grade history test, and one part was an essay worth 13 points. She lost 9 of the 13 points (ie. failed the essay) even though the content was correct. Even the teacher agreed the content was perfect. However, she took off 9 points throughout the test essay because of very minor punctuation errors. For example, my daughter's essay began as such: "Geography influenced the development of civilization in Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent because it was a flat land desert with two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates." After this line, the teacher wrote in red the word "the" before Tigris (ie., saying my daughter should have written "the Tigris") and then took off "-1." Now, as a parent, I look at that sentence -- a complex sentence for an 11 year old, use of advanced vocabulary, filled with key vocabulary words from the unit - and all I can think is "She marked it off because she forgot to put the word "the" in the sentence?" Remember, 1 point out of 13 off, and my daughter now already has a 92% on the essay. Let's keep going further into the essay: "The two rivers I talked about earlier, were made into part of a canal where you control the water that goes to the crops." After this sentence, the teacher took off two more points. She circled the comma as unnecessary (minus 1) and wrote "Be careful of your tense" (minus 1). Now my daughter has a 76% on the essay, and the teacher isn't through. "A ziggurat is almost temple-like, the smallest and highest part of it is where the preists worship their gods." The teacher circled "preists," wrote SP, and minus 1. My daughter has now officially failed the essay with a 69% but - oh no -- there are several more sentences & minor comma errors to come -- another two points off, and now here comes my daughter's concluding sentence...... "Thats how geography influenced the development of civilazation in Mesopotamia and the Ferlite Crescent." This concluding sentence received 3 points off all on its own: Minus 1 for forgetting the apostrophe in That's; minus 1 for misspelling civilization; minus 1 for writing Ferlite instead of Fertile (which she had written correctly earlier in the essay and on the paper, but crossed the wrong letter for the T). That last concluding sentence alone cost her 24% points off her essay. My daughter's final essay grade was 4/13 = or a 30% grade.....even though the content was correct. I told my daughter, good thing you didn't write any more on the subject, which she had mastered, because had she written any more, her grade would have been a zero. The more you write, the more you open yourself up to punctuation errors. At 8% off per error, it's a steep price to pay. I'm now advising my daughter to write simple and fewer sentences and to not use advanced vocabulary. Of course, that's crazy, so I set up a meeting to discuss. The meeting is coming up, and I know from the middle school principal that the teacher's position is that she has a very high standard ("do I want her to lower her standards?"); that language arts is important in every class, not just English class; and that if she doesn't mark off heavily this way, that the kids won't learn. My concern is that the minor style errors ending up outweighing the content, that the resulting grade doesn't match the knowledge or aptitude of the subject at hand. In addition, the grading is demoralizing, and no learning takes place from it after the fact because they don't correct their papers or even address the points off. My opinion is that my daughter, who is only a 6th grader, wrote a beautiful (and complete) essay in a pressure-filled, timed history test that was factually accurate and complete, and yet failed it for minor comma and grammatical errors. Does this seem a little off-kilter to you as well? By the way, this teacher is not the only one in this school like this. Another teacher took off 6 points from my friend's son's 5th grade language arts essay because he keep linking a capital W in cursive to the rest of the letters in the word, where the W should not link (2 points per each of the three linked Ws), plus more points off for not writing out numbers, etc. He went down two letter grades for these minor errors, even though the content was correct. I think it's the culture of the school, although the middle school head doesn't agree with me on that feeling. She thinks it's isolated teachers, and I happen to be in a bad year. Am I really so far off base on this? Is this how "top private elementary schools" grade nowadays? How can I help the teacher understand her grading isn't reasonable, that at the very least, out of a 13 point essay, 12 of the points should go for content? Or am I wrong here? Are there studies showing this type of punitive grading is demoralizing and doesn't help learning?