Dilemma: “If they’re not failing, then you’re not teaching!”

This scenario appears in Chapter Six: “Grading and Assessment Philosophies.” What would you say to your colleague in this situation? How much should the students’ future classes dictate your curriculum? How do you know that your students have earned the grades you’ve assigned?

For further reflection, read my Edueto article: Do You Know What You’re Doing as a Grader?

“If they’re not failing, then you’re not teaching!”


You are at the end of your first semester at your new high school.  In accordance with school policy, you have posted your class’s final grades outside your door.  Relieved to have put this semester to bed, you stroll into your department’s break room, pour a cup of coffee, and take a seat at your desk.  But before long, a colleague approaches you and asks if you have a moment to chat.

“Um, some of us noticed the grades you gave,” she begins.  “I don’t know what experience you’ve had in the past, but at this school we do NOT give that many A’s in one class.  And I cannot believe that no one failed.”

You try to explain that everyone did their work and earned the grades they received, but your colleague responds by saying, “Well, your standards must not be as high as ours.  Those kids will hate you when they go to the next grade and find that they’re unprepared.”

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