Why You Must Stop Giving Fake Grades

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Teachers giving grades students haven’t earned is rampant, staggering in its increasing frequency.

Why is this happening?

A few reasons. First, the pandemic and accompanying learning loss has added pressure on teachers to get students caught up. This has caused the standards for earning grades to drop.

Second is the growing and pervasive view that objective standards for reading, writing, math, and science are discriminatory and thus must be adjusted by the teacher to make them “fair.”

The result is that an ‘A’ for one student can look very different from an ‘A’ given to another.

Finally, in public schools in particular, the performance and ability levels of many students are so low that more than half would be failing if not for the fudging, winking, and unlimited and alternative opportunities to raise their grades.

None of these reasons are justifiable. In fact, lowering standards for any reason and for any student is not only wrong and dishonest, but it’s also terrible for students.

Here’s why:

1. They can’t hide.

The bill will eventually come due. A person can only fake what is falsely written down on paper for so long. Maybe it comes the first month of college when they realize they don’t have the skills to make through one semester.

Maybe it comes when they can’t pass a basic reading or writing exam for their desired career or don’t have the work ethic to keep a job. Maybe it’s when they find themselves in a dank apartment contemplating a criminal act.

One day, inevitably, reality will smack them in the face.

2. They believe the lie.

Most students aren’t sophisticated enough to realize that their ‘A’ isn’t close to the ‘A’ of the student across town, a decade past, or even in their own class.

They’re so pumped full of praise and phony appraisal of their abilities that when the truth sets in it’s devastating. Their whole world is upended. Their dreams die.

And without past failures, accountability, and real-world maturity and understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, they can’t overcome it. They have no wellspring of fortitude to dip into and reverse course.

3. They learn nothing.

The result of inflated grades is that they learn nothing, or very little, academically. This is bad enough. But the biggest sin is that they don’t know how far down in the hole they are. It’s sad to watch them so unconcerned and unaware.

They also don’t know what they’re capable of deep inside. How could they? They’ve not been challenged enough, overcome enough, or faced with reality early enough to do something about it.

They have no grit, no toughness, no resiliency. They’ve been given excuses for so long that that’s all they have. Excuses. Excuses for everything. Whether or not they’ve had early advantages or none at all. It gets them nowhere.

Before It’s Too Late

To best prepare your students for a realistic future, you must be great at your job—which is to provide excellent instruction. Pursue your own excellence first. Become an expert in classroom management. Build rapport. Create a classroom your students love being part of.

Focus on this.

Yes, provide support. Yes, check thoroughly for understanding. Yes, be passionate. Yes, believe in your students and their ability to overcome their circumstances, which often aren’t fair. Encourage. Praise their good work.

Give them every tool they need to succeed on their own.

But set your standards in cement. Let your students fail if that’s where they fall. Let them feel disappointment. Let them know the truth about where they really are academically and behaviorally.

Be straight with them. Do not give chance after chance after chance. It is in the face of hard truth that change happens. It is confrontation with being knocked down that provides the purchase to begin standing back up.

Never, ever deny them of this powerful, life-changing experience—which they need again and again and again. Your “compassion” and excuse-making is only hurting them.

Instead, let them feel it. Allow your students to develop fight and perseverance and the tenacity to go out into the world on their own and succeed through the struggle.

While they still can.

Before it’s too late.

PS – We’ll be taking next weekend off but will be back with a new article on June 3rd. Also, if you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

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