"You Earn Your Grade" - debate about teachers who have failed the students

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by ayotte04, Jul 30, 2007.

  1. ayotte04

    ayotte04 Comrade

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    Jul 30, 2007

    ok so that other thread spurred me to start a new post, but on a similar topic.

    I'm under the mentality that I DO NOT give out grades, the students earn them. Now...that doesn't mean I say "read the book, do the problems, take the test, and there's your grade". I give instruction, try to offer it in different ways, constantly check for understanding, and make it known I'm available before school, after school, or come talk to me if that schedule doesn't work for you. I ALWAYS encourage questions, because I'm one of those people that will not learn unless I ask a million questions.

    But if the kid sits through my class and makes NO effort to let me know they don't understand and they haven't sought my guidance then what? Did they earn their grade?

    I guess I'm trying to understand where the balance is between me instructing and bending over backwards to offer help and where they need to step up, take responsibility, and face the music.

    Additionally, (gosh I write such long boring posts) when can you say a teacher has failed the student (not literally, but figuratively)? :anyone:
     
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  3. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    In terms of actual grades, my advice would be to DOCUMENT everything! What extra help did you offer the student and when? Did you contact the parents (that's always been a biggie both when I taught middle school and elementary)? Did you offer extra credit or a chance to redo the work for a higher grade? If you can show you did all these things, and the student STILL made no effort, then you shouldn't have any problems with failing grades.
    I believe teachers fail students when they don't make an effort to understand why a student doesn't understand the material. Sometimes "laziness" maskes a greater problem that can easily be taken care of.
     
  4. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    To kind of shift the students' way of thinking, instead of telling them, "I don't give a grade, you earn a grade," I say, "I don't give grades; I just calculate them."

    I have failed a student if he/she has made a conscious effort to learn and participate in my class and he/she still fails or doesn't master the basics of my class. It happens. I let a kid last year totally slip through my fingers. I just never gave her the attention that she needed or deserved. She asked for help and came in frequently. She was pleasant and productive, but she just never really grasped writing and grammar. I let her slip by because she was nice and productive. *sigh* I should have helped her more.
     
  5. apple25

    apple25 Comrade

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    Good question!! A hard one to answer at the junior high level too - they are just starting to learn about the importance of grades. I offer extra help, extra credit, and extra time for assignments. Sometimes a rewrite, depending on circumstance.

    Sometimes I do feel like I am bending over backwards, but then in a weeks time I'll feel like I haven't done enough. For me, it is really hard to watch a student not work to their full potential. Or, not work at all and get failing grades. Or, the most heart-breaking, try but not let you know that they don't understand, and then say that they'll do better next time, but not ask questions or let you know they are still struggling. One particular student - I'll have him again next year - can't stay for afterschool help (no drive home), doesn't have good home support to help with time management and homework, experienced the sudden death of a close friend, and struggles (I think) with depression. I have talked with the school counsellor, and she is keeping an eye out. It is so hard to give low marks when all this is stacked against him.

    I know for me, it is a fine line between teaching kids to be independent . . . to learn to take care of their own marks (which means accepting a zero if the assignment doesn't get passed in), and giving them some second chances to do well. If you the kid is capable but carrying a lot of baggage around - it is really really tough sometimes.

    Great thread!
     
  6. kyblue07

    kyblue07 Companion

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    If a student doesn't understand, it should be evident on informal assessments and learning checks. Things like exit tickets, oral questioning, 3-2-1 tickets, etc...
    I'm not sure if that's what you meant or not. There are times when despite our best efforts, students don't succeed. I remember one of my professors made a huge point that teachers should always expect that student success will be the result but also be realistic and accept the fact that it won't always happen and not beat ourselves up over it. That being said, teachers do have a responsibility to try mutliple ways, means, methods, etc to help every student.
     
  7. kyblue07

    kyblue07 Companion

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    Tough situation apple25. Thanks for sharing. I had a student last year that, despite doing everything I possibly could, still did not succeed in my class. It was tough going into those parent conferences because it was always my fault and if Mrs. ___ would do this or that. It was always something I wasn't doing right or well enough. My principal had enough finally and said it needed to be a joint effort and I had gone above and beyond as a teacher. I will have this student again this year. His parents have already demanded that if he refuses to write his assignments in his agenda book that I am required to do it for him everyday. I want nothing but success for this student, but where is the line?
     
  8. wldywall

    wldywall Connoisseur

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    I had several classes last year where the failure rate was enough to make a teachers heart stop. At one point my first period class, I had ONE person passing. Why? NO one turned in any assignments, even ones that we did in class and had to be turned in before they left. I know they did them, I watched them, but the did not turn them in, they didn't think it was important. I actually had 3 classes with a 30% failure rate and one with close to 60% failure rate. I even gave an assignment where the kids had to play a modern with a historical song, compare them with a Venn, and they got 100pts just for having it done! How many did it in the class with the 60% failure rate? 1/2, just one half. I only got 6 of the propaganda posters I assigned.

    Sigh, yes I was very upset, yes I documented it, and yes I told students they earned their grades, if you don't turn it in, I have nothing to put in the computer. :sorry: I feel like I failed so many of my students, I worry that I cannot motivate kids to do the work. But I can tell you, many of those students that never turned anything in came to me at the end of the year with regret, they knew they made a mistake. They promised me to work harder this year.

    One lesson I learned is that many kids just CANNOT be trusted to take their work out of the classroom, heck some cannot be trusted to take their textbook out of the classroom. This year everything I am planning is based upon the materials being kept in class, any homework will be limited, and will be taken out but the main folder of work will stay behind. I think I will keep homework to things like a writing assignment, or a worksheet, something they don't need the book for becuase most of my books cannot leave the room.

    I just dont know how to make kids who do the work, TO TURN IT IN!
     
  9. ayotte04

    ayotte04 Comrade

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    you should not have to write their freagin assignments down. Those parents are going to let the kid slack? They're just setting him up for failure. He'll never learn responsibility if he thinks he can get away with that. Plus that's unfair to all your other students
     
  10. teacherSMK

    teacherSMK Habitué

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    I am in the same situation with a student. The parents want me to keep all of his completed assignments and mail them home on Fridays, initial every single homework assignment in his daily planner to assure that he wrote it down correctly, and send a letter home each night detailing which assignments were completed and which weren't. I think they think I have 6 hours of time on my hands. This student will be an eighth grader this year, and I feel like he will never be responsible for his own actions because the parents put it all on me. The principal and counselor and I have a conference scheduled the week before orientation to set boundaries for me, because it became way too much last year. It amazes me, the way things are anymore. :huh:
     
  11. ChangeAgent

    ChangeAgent Comrade

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    re: kyblue07

    I have seen, in special education settings, that teachers will sign assignment books for students. Before that student leaves, s/he is to show the teacher his/her assignment book with the homework written in it, and the teacher will initial it. If the student forgets, the teacher can prompt.

    I do not know the situation of your student, but this may be more of a productive approach.

    As for the grade debate . . .

    Students earn the grades. So long as you, as a teacher, are clear in your expectations and assignments, students are responsible (rather, the responsibility is the students'). Of course, we also must meet each class/student where they are.

    Similar to wldywall's account, when I student taught, all three of my sixth-grade science and social studies courses failed to turn in homework. We even started most of it in class. They were worksheets that went along with the textbook, only about 10-12 questions of matching or fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice. However, students continually did not turn them in. Or, I would assign mini-projects to be turned in after three or so days, with time to start in class, and would receive very few of them.

    I had to change some of my policies to make sure students were turning in the work. I figured that if they turned it in, I at least knew they were doing the work, and I could better gauge what, or how much, they knew.

    Even when I student taught at the high school level, turning in assignments was an issue. So, I tried to assign less. And, when I did give homework, I tried to keep it simple and give time to begin in class. I think beginning the year with a strict policy and procedure on homework will be helpful. Also, start where the students are. If they are not yest responsible, only give them a little. Remind them. Encourage them., etc. Build up their responsibility. No, it's not what I'd prefer (I'd like to assign homework and have it done!), but we have to work with what we have.

    Teachers should also be timely in returning graded work, writing notes on papers, and providing feedback (perhaps by providing grades more often than just once a quarter). Keeping students informed should help a student's progress. Even providing a homework checklist (have the students write each homework assignment in a chart and they can check it off once they turned it in and check off again when they get it back) may help.

    I had a high school teacher who would keep a running list on the board of all assignments. You could match your list with hers to know if you were missing anything.

    This may sound like we're holding the students' hands the whole way, but it's a start. This last example was in a freshman history course, so there was that transition. This may also work very well for special education students.

    At this time of the morning, I'm tired, so I need to stop this monstrously long post!
     
  12. Lyquidphyre

    Lyquidphyre Comrade

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    Do you think it helps to provide them with a grade sheet?
    I planned on handing out a blank grade record sheet the kids must keep in their binder and fill out (for a grade). After a lot of papers are passed back, on the overhead I will write the name of the assignment and the points assigned to it. Then, the kids go "wow, 0/10, 0/20, 0/12" and hopefully realize these grades count.
     
  13. apple25

    apple25 Comrade

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    Wow - your parents have a few expectations, hmm? That's crazy. I like lyquidphyre's idea of a grade sheet - what they are asking you to do is extreme. The student will never learn responsibility!! I think checking to see if they have written down their HW in their agenda correctly, and intialing it is about as much as you should have to do. And even that can take a lot of your time - especially if they don't have good handwriting. Your job is to have them ready for high school. Next thing, they'll be saying that you spoonfeed them in junior high and that they didn't learn any time management or organizational skills in your class. A catch 22 if you ask me. It's a good thing that you have a meeting before school starts and that you'll have the support of admin behind you. Good luck.
     
  14. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Apple, I had a parent like that a few years ago, too. Not only were we to write it for him (this was a SOPHOMORE in high school), but if he didn't do his work in class, we were to call her to go get him from his 7th period class and prevent him from going to band practice. Yeah. And in the meantime, what were my 30 kids in 7th period supposed to be doing? Crazy. It took us 2 months to get that ARD changed!

    Like Lyquidphyre, I started really using a grade sheet this year, and it worked WONDERS! I couldn't believe the change it made in my class and in how many completed assignments I had. I've been preaching it all term/summer to the teachers at my school.
     
  15. apple25

    apple25 Comrade

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    Hmm, I seem to be having trouble using quotes. I think I've figured it out now - my third edit on that last post . . . kyblue and teacherkenny was who I quoted (with many sympathies to their situation!!!).

    But Bandnerdtx - yikes . . . still going on in high school?? Scarey!!
     
  16. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Apple, the boy finally graduated this year, but only because his mother held his hand through the entire process. I hope she enjoys having him close... I have a feeling he'll still be with her when he's 30.

    :hijack: Btw, one time the band was going on a trip to Florida, and everyone was supposed to meet at the school at X time to leave for the airport. Well, 20 minutes past the assigned time, he was still nowhere to be found, and they couldn't reach him by phone. The bus left for the airport. About 10 minutes before the band was to board the plan, the mom called the head director and said she was coming and to PLEASE HOLD THE PLANE because she'd be there in 20 minutes! When he said that he couldn't do that, she became irate! (We live in a big city; there was NO WAY, after 9-11 that she was getting through our airport in 20 minutes even if he COULD have convinced the airline to wait.) Anyway, she called the principal, the superintendent, et al, and complained. Fortunately, they backed the band director.

    Heaven help his first boss. She'll be at his door every day!
     
  17. ValinFW

    ValinFW Comrade

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    Of the seven kids who failed my class last year, one was for excessive absences, and six were because they didn't turn in work. I give them progress reports, call parents, assign academic d-halls, contact their AP. The school assigns students who fail more than three classes in a grading period to "lunch tutorials". I had those six kids who failed in summer school. Guess what? They turned in EVERY assignment I gave them, on time, and done well. :confused:
     
  18. MsTeacher

    MsTeacher Rookie

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    My school requires we do School-Based Problem Solving for students displaying at risk behavior either socially or academically.
    Does any one else have to do this?

    Basically, it's a meeting that takes place with the student's teachers, counselor, nurse, and school psychologist to discuss the teachers' concern regarding the student.

    The teachers bring anecdotal records, work samples, etc...whatever they have to support their concern.
    Then the entire teams puts their heads together to problem-solve and come up with a first step plan. Part of every first step is to hold a meeting with the parents and let them know that we are having some concerns and what our course of action is. We get additional info from the parents. (we had one parent who admitted that her son was always late for school because he had to care for his grandparents...we put her in touch with a community group:) )
    In all, we hold several meetings with the team and track the student's progress over time. We do a lot before we make the determination of whether the child is LD or EBD or just apathetic or has irresponsible parents.
    But during the entire process, we monitor the child, provide modifications, have them counseled, etc...
    It sometimes takes the entire school year before the child's issue is identified but it cuts down on our retention rate and allows the child to be successful in school...at their ability level.
    Oh...and it also takes the burden off of the teacher's shoulders. We all share in the problem-solving. Quiets the parents down too because they rarely throw a fit or make unreasonable demands of the entire team.
     
  19. kyblue07

    kyblue07 Companion

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    Every year I consider doing something like a grade sheet so that students can track their own grades, but I always talk myself out of it. I figure it would be just another sheet they've lost and a waste of time. Since I'm doing notebooks this year, which won't leave the classroom, I may have them paste it to the inside cover. Or better yet, paste it to their foreheads (just kidding!!!)
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2007
  20. ayotte04

    ayotte04 Comrade

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    now if you do this...do you also give out progress reports, say every 2 -3 weeks?

    I found even if it wasn't required to send those Prog Rep. home, it helped a little. And also, do you check that they are filling out their grade sheets? If you are...are there consequences if they don't fill them out?
     
  21. ayotte04

    ayotte04 Comrade

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    oh we do that here. Californians, help me out...is this an IEP meeting?
     
  22. wldywall

    wldywall Connoisseur

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    No an IEP meeting is a totally different animal, we call this kind of meeting a child study meeting.
     
  23. trulyblssd

    trulyblssd Companion

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    An IEP is more of a legal document that the teacher can actually be sued over if it is not followed. IEP’s are sometimes abused. To qualify for an IEP, you have to have a learning disability

    504—To qualify the child has to show a significant deficiency in at least one major life activity such as school work or social skills. It is up to the school to determine whether a child qualifies (ADD/ADHD/Hearing or Sight problems that are not serious enough to be placed in Special Ed. Classes).

    They can both be pains in your rear!
     
  24. trulyblssd

    trulyblssd Companion

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    Students are allowed to get their grade from all of their teachers every Th and Fri. They can take these home and it helps. For example, all athletes have to get their grades checked every week. I just make and anouncement at the beginning of class when I am taking roll and take care of it during their bellwork.
     
  25. ayotte04

    ayotte04 Comrade

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    yeah yeah.. you're right. gosh what is that meeting called out here? now it's gonna bug me
     
  26. Lyquidphyre

    Lyquidphyre Comrade

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    I'm assuming progress reports are normal school policy- so I would follow whatever that is. I plan to do a binder check (possibly note check) to make sure they are keeping up with their stuff. So every 6/9 weeks (depending on the grading period) they will get a grade for their binder/ notes. Also, I want to try and have a decent amount of contact with parents, and one thing I will mention in a mass email/letter home will be they can check their child's progress at any time by looking at their grade record in their binder.
     
  27. ChangeAgent

    ChangeAgent Comrade

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    Just to bring things back to the initial question (as I think we have explored some contributing and related factors rather well): How much is too much?

    How much teacher expenditure is too much?
    How much student apathy is too much?

    I think drawing a line between teacher success/failure and student progress/failure is impossible. Neither pair is homogenous. Each of us, as professionals, have our own approach, philosophy, experiences, classrooms, schools, etc. Each student has his or her own talents, challenges, worldview, friends, etc.

    This suggests that we need to look at students individually (such as our comments above about IEPs). We hear this all the time, about individualized instruction.

    Of course, in reality, students are judged by standards, which require "standardization." So, while we may be pushed to individualize instruction (and, in the case of some students with IEPs, content), standards remain the same. To me, this sounds dangerous. "Help each student progress at his or her own rate, but be sure to meet the standards when we test them."

    My general equation is as follows:

    Ideals + Reality = Compromise

    We have our ideals: Individualized instruction, attaining standards, students should be intrinsically motivated

    We have our reality: Standards are a strain on the system, even with individualized instruction some students are not motivated and refuse to achieve, some students cannot be standards even if they are motivated, some students seem to require extrinsic rewards, some students fail, some teachers fail

    Both lists go on and on. So, to the right of the equal sign is "Compromise." We still have our ideals and wish to attain them. However, each student may not meet them while in our class, or within our timeframe. So, we use extrinsic motivators, students do fail, standards must be met or there will be consequences (for teachers and students).

    So, who earns the grade, and who fails--students or teachers?

    [I've babbled enough. I'll leave us with the initial question!]
     
  28. eduk8r

    eduk8r Enthusiast

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    Ayotte, I would definitely use the assignment/grade sheet that some of the posters mentioned. And I personally would send it out at least once a month, so the parents would know what is happening before it is too late to do anything about it. They do this at our middle school and high school and it will definitely help you to keep organized and to have backup (proof that you let the student and parent know) should you need it. Good luck!
     
  29. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    We have Welcome to School meeting for parents during the second week of school. At that time I give them the test dates for the year... I test every 2 weeks, regardless of what material I've covered. I tell them to expect a graded paper within 2 or 3 days of each test date.

    Some, surprisingly, don't copy them down. But I think the others are glad to have a general idea.
     
  30. ancientcivteach

    ancientcivteach Habitué

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    I have a stamp for averages that I stamp in their planner every couple of weeks. It looks something like this:

    Humanities - Mrs. ________

    Date: _____ Current Avg: _______

    Parent Signature:

    I have a student go around with the stamp, then I either collect the planners and fill it in, or walk around the room and fill them in while I'm circulating anyway.

    Its fast, easy, tree-friendly :up: - and again, wonderful in conferences - whether they are signed or not, because I put in my policies that I will do this, and the policy sheets I make sure are signed. :)

    As a side note, I did this one year with another teacher and the other two teachers on the team printed out grade reports every two weeks. We rarely got questions on our averages, but the grade reports would always come back highlighted and covered with questions/issues. These were the same kids/parents! :)
     
  31. eduk8r

    eduk8r Enthusiast

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    I wish I could give you a copy of my kids' progress reports, then you could see what it looks like. But surely someone at your school has something like it.

    It looks something like this:

    Name___ Date______ Grade Average ___
    Teacher's name and class/period

    Assignment Turned in Points
    Homework week of 9/25 9/25 15/15
    Chapter quiz 9/22 9/22 18/20

    ...and so on. Then there is a signature line at the bottom, "I have read and understand..."

    Sorry, the formatting didn't come out right when I posted it. There should be three columns lined up.
     
  32. teacherSMK

    teacherSMK Habitué

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    If I were to implement student grade tracking sheets as mentioned earlier, how would I keep things confidential, without taking up too much class time? If it is something they keep track of, how do I know they are accurately detailing their grades? :help:
     
  33. ChangeAgent

    ChangeAgent Comrade

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    If I use a tracking sheet, I would keep a running list posted in the room (assignment title and how many points it is worth). The students can fill in their grades once you pass back the graded assignment.

    As for accuracy . . . you can either go around and check, or just hope/trust that the students are following instructions. It would be for their own reference anyway--your gradebook is still final. So, they can play with their own numbers all they want, it won't affect their grade. This will just allow them to keep track of their own grades.
     
  34. jaruby

    jaruby Companion

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    Aug 6, 2007

    Not special ed with a plan you must follow, correct? Just a regular student that has parents that want more?

    I had a student/parent like that last year Im an 8th grade science teacher. They wanted me to do everything for their kid. I decided they wanted way too much from me and not enough from them. So, I figured out a way to make my life easier and their's a little "more involved."
    First... I still had to check his agenda everyday, but I made it perfectly clear to his parents "It is not my responsibility to make sure he does it. You need to figure out some type of reward/punishment system to make sure of this when you check and initial it every evening. I will gladly see it, read it, make sure it is correct, initial it put comments in it for you, but I will not chase him down to do it for him." They did not seem to like it but they agreed.
    second...Instead of having to write a daily letter to them keeping them updated I simply marked whether he turned in the assignments from the prior day on the agenda. For complicated assignments without printed instructions I put a "post-it" with a quick overview of the instructions on his agenda.
    Third... give him a folder in a "special" place to turn in his papers and just have him take it home on Fridays. That way he is doing all of the work. Again MAKE IT CLEAR to his parents it is not your responsibility to do it for him. You will help but not do.

    I hope this helps.
     

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