I was just reading a NYTimes article on a teacher who quit because the failing grade he gave a student was overturned by the principal. I am a bit irked by this article for a variety of reasons.
First, I am irked by the fact that an administrator would overturn a grade. It is not only insulting to a teacher, but it undermines the teacher as well and questions the teacher’s professionalism.
Secondly, I am irked by the fact that I am now a judge of the situation, when I know perfectly well that the circumstances have not been 100% laid out before me. What I mean by this is that there are certainly facets that we do not know about. There may have been some significant issues between teacher and student prompting the student to not do so well. Since she failed last year, this is probably not the case.
Thirdly, I have definitely passed marginal kids (truly marginal, not someone getting a 45 — but I also never gave lower than a 45, as an F is an F, and you don’t want to doom a kid forever). Sometimes the question is — what is my goal here? With tougher graduation standards, I frankly think that it is criminal to deny some kids a diploma because they are bad at one subject. If a kid has mainly D’s on a report card, yet they still have a diploma, they won’t get into college without getting some community college experience to bolster their grades, yet they’ll be able to get a job that merely requires a high school diploma. Thus, it enables them to have access to the “pursuit of happiness (property)”. A clear example is that in order to join the Army, it is much more difficult to join if one does not have a diploma. One can have a GED, but it is tougher to get it then. Check out the Army’s website and download the enlistment standards if you can. I taught a number of kids who were not super geniuses but wanted nothing more than to serve in the army. I think it would be wrong to deny them that opportunity. Don’t get me wrong. I do not support funneling our least privileged into the army, but for those who have set it as a dream goal and have little else in terms of opportunity, I think it would be wrong of me to stand in their way. This does not mean they’d get carte blanche, but I would make sure to work with the individual so that s/he could reach his/her goal.
Anyway, I see the teacher’s side, but I can also see another side — and that is that we do not have all of the info we’d need to make a sound judgment.