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By: Guest Writer
So, I am sitting here in my classroom fretting about the legal and ethical ramifications of grade inflation. You see, in my present school, the administration has insisted that even if a child sits idle all year, never having handed in one anecdotal artifact to demonstrate mastery, I should enter a grade of 50. In fact, I have the looming threat of “non-compliance with procedures and protocol” hanging over my teacher’s evaluation for failure to inflate the grade of students who refuse to perform. So, do I move along as all of the herd are doing in this pasture, or do I stand for what I know is ethical and “right”? It seems to stand on the “right” side of history and teach my students academic responsibility will result in a censure to my teaching record.
Knowing the consequences, my fingers still can’t type that falsehood. I cannot in good conscience enter that grade 49 or 50 when I know students have not done anything to even muster an attempt at mastery. Why should I have to resign, to be able to look at myself in the mirror, when nothing in district policy supports this practice? Why should my students lose an educator who is resolute in his/her commitment to their edification?
As educators, what are we doing here? Indeed, we are pacifying parents and giving students an undeserved sense of accomplishment. Surely when they leave the confines of this place, the price for academic irresponsibility will be painfully clear, as high school zeros are doled out on a daily. To make matters worse, educators will be left with the empty feeling of knowing that could have not built capacity in their students to get challenging assignments done, instead of accepting the “fake” grades that they were given instead.
Case in point, on day one as I challenged my students to take up pencil and paper and engage in “writing to learn”, several kids whispered to one another that even if they didn’t do the assignments, “it’s not like we are gonna get a zero.” This phenomenon puts the teacher at a huge disadvantage when exhorting his/her influence to have students to do assignments that one finds at odds with their mood or skillset. Frankly, it thwarts the learning process at its inception and cripples the teacher’s ability to motivate. So, my fingers type the “NHI” or not handed in code for the assignments that I never receive, and my performance evaluation hangs in the balance. I won't "give" a 50 when I know a student has done absolutely nothing.
So, before I compromise my ethics and what I know to be in students’ best interest, I simply put my head "down" and teach. However, I am teaching while waiting for that proverbial shoe to drop, when I must defend myself for being truthful in a world of falsehoods and alternative facts. If this is your reality as well, I will just leave you with that question that nags me every single day---What are we doing here?