Teachers overlook grading guidelines




No teacher, from my experience at RHS, lived up to the ideal educator that we students create from our own capricious expectations. That’s fair. But teachers, through their grading practices, fail to honor some basic principles of the student-teacher relationship, including the first of the all important “R.O.A.R” attributes the school upholds: respect.

In honor of the updated grading policy and guidelines that contain radical reforms gutting extra credit and weighted community college class credit, I would like to bring up a couple issues that I feel the policy and guidelines still fail to acknowledge. I’ll start with the class syllabus.

Pretty much every teacher has created one, and every student and parent has signed countless: a piece (or packet, depending on how much of a stickler the teacher is) of paper that enumerates all of the various policies a teacher has created for their course, meant to protect themselves from any and all complaints a student or parent may have throughout the year about the way they teach.

It’s very much the Terms and Conditions before we update our devices – we take it, assume it’s full of the obvious “do nots,” and give our consent to it so we can get on with our lives. I never refuse it myself, but is it fair that I can’t?

Because teachers pretty much always make it a graded assignment, no reasonable student will deliberately pass up the opportunity for easy points to protest their teacher’s course policy. But let’s say I’m the activist student – do I get a zero as my first grade if I don’t like what’s on the syllabus, or would my teacher simply refuse me as a student because I didn’t sign their contract?

The answer should be neither. Signing them is not explicitly mandated by our district’s official Board Policy, which merely requires teachers to “communicate to students, in writing, at the beginning of the course, or upon enrollment, the grading policy” which teachers “develop, submit to the school administration, and enclose in the grade book,” and must be “agreed upon by the teacher and student.” One could argue the policy sufficiently allows teachers to require a signature, but that doesn’t mean the student must sign it as-is.

Students should have every right to refuse a syllabus, just as teachers have no right to make students sign their course syllabi a graded assignment. After all, isn’t the point of the syllabus – the grading policy – to keep teachers in-check?

The injustices of grading practices don’t stop there.

Teachers don’t treat students with respect when it comes to missing assignments. Students can probably admit that most of the time, it’s their fault, and most of the time, they know when the deadline day of reckoning comes. In fact, they are probably reminded constantly by their teacher of their negligence in the form of zeroes and passive-aggressive responses when the student wants to know why they received one.

But what of the teacher’s negligence? What of all those assignments that get graded two, three, four weeks later, months later, never? These assignments certainly exist, and they exist because of the typical “I have a life too, you know,” and the “Do you know how many students I grade papers for everyday?”

Teachers can be just as bad as students when it comes to procrastination and habitual lateness – why the district grading guidelines “for Teachers, Students, and Parents” explicitly states “teachers are expected to grade [formative and summative] assessments and post a grade to the electronic gradebook within 7 school days after the electronic due date.”

If only “students and parents” knew about the amount of times their teachers dishonor this expectation, they would probably think twice before signing that syllabus. Since we students clearly can’t expect fidelity in grading, can we at least expect teachers to clarify in their syllabi: “each assignment will be graded and in the gradebook within a time frame of 1 to 30 school days after the electronic due date, or maybe never?”

A grading deadline of seven days is perfectly reasonable. My professor at Sierra College promised us in his syllabus – one that was not a graded assignment – that we could check the gradebook every Sunday night and find all of our weekly grades posted online. And though he teaches multiple college-level classes, has a full-time job in the government and “has a life too,” I get a notification on my phone telling me my grades were posted every Sunday at around 9:00 p.m.

Teachers either read and ignore the district grading guidelines, or have never read them before, since the discrepancy between what’s suggested/mandated by them and the reality for most classrooms is too vast to believe teachers follow their lead. I couldn’t help laughing when I first read through them at the beginning of this year.

The 21 total pages of the grading policy and guidelines documents – in a sentence – asks teachers to grade in a timely and consistent fashion and err on the side of students.

So students – before you sign that new syllabus next semester, give it a good read and make sure it protects yourself before signing it, and before you kick yourself about that missing assignment from three weeks ago that just appeared in the gradebook, keep in mind you aren’t the only one who made a mistake.

Or if your teacher is like many I’ve had in the past, they’ll probably just fix your faulty grade if you ask them nicely.