School Policy: Pass/Fail

Administrators should be fine with failing students. What I mean by this is, if the student has earned an ‘F’ then they get an ‘F’. Teachers should give students every chance to succeed. Including providing extra copies of missing assignments and allowing work to be turned in late (with a deduction). Teachers should not be expected to do more than this, their focus should be on teaching, not making students do homework. So, from an administrator’s perspective, if the teachers are giving students every chance to pass and they still don’t (and there is documentation), administration should not have a problem with giving the students a failing grade.

Administrators who think that every student should get a high grade or are against failing students are causing problems because teachers are forced to essentially make up grades. This muddies the waters of feedback as the student and the parents are essentially being lied to about their ability and progress level. The clear truth (grades reflecting achievement) is better than muddy truth (grades reflecting achievement plus fluff).

While I believe schools should fail students who earn it, I also believe that schools should have an explicit policy in place for this. Not merely a verbal, or inferred one. By being explicit, teachers will know what to do. I think that a good policy in regard to this would include giving the student and parents multiple notices of their grades before the grades are due. Students should be able to make up missing work within a reasonable timeframe with a reasonable deduction for being late. And that’s it.

As a policy, this might look something like,

  1. Teachers will send progress reports home during the middle of the term and at the end of the term that will be returned with a guardian’s signature.
    1. Progress reports will include the student’s overall grade and individual assignment grades.
  2. Students will have one week from the date the progress reports are sent home to turn in any missing/late work for partial credit.
    1. Work that is done/turned in after this point will not be accepted for any credit.

I believe that it is important for the progress reports to include the individual assignment grades because some students and most parents will want to know what specifically was not turned in. Making this clear helps parents to see exactly what their child needs to do in order to improve, which should reduce unnecessary meetings with frustrated parents.

Giving a “short” deadline is important because students need a final deadline. Otherwise, they will keep on not turning in assignments (As they have had the entire term before the notice was home to make up the work and have not). Another reason for the “short” deadline is to not overload the teacher with student work to grade.

Putting these policies in place, and following them can reduce headaches teachers face from upset parents because parents will be informed ahead of time. This type of policy also encourages accountability. Students are responsible for their learning. Teachers are responsible to help students learn and to remove barriers (that are within the teacher’s control) to learning.

By not having some sort of clear policy in place for failing students, your school is setting itself up to fail.

Does your school pass or fail?