Nitpicking grades

Discussion in 'General Education' started by otterpop, Apr 22, 2019.

  1. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Apr 22, 2019

    Sorry in advance for the lengthy post.

    I have a question about a situation, some small details will be changed below for privacy.

    Starting in March, I changed the way I graded a certain homework assignment. I sent home a note, an email, and talked with students about it. It was a minor change and it was carefully explained. There should have been no wiggle room on it. Either the assignment was done the way I asked, or it wasn't, and they lost points accordingly. The way I was going to give points was extremely clear. Each assignment should take about thirty minutes to complete and is turned in once a week.

    One student, I'll call her Maria, is the daughter of a highly involved PTA (parent-teacher association) parent.

    Maria turned in the first assignment, Week 1: 1/4 points.
    Week 2: 2/4 points
    I email out a polite reminder all parents, again: make sure you remind your student to follow the directions!​
    Week 3: 1/4
    Week 4: 2/4
    As this point, I get an email from Maria's mother, who regularly checks grades online. WHY does Maria have these failing grades on these assignments? (To me, it seems that she should have noticed these points then before week 4, but...) I let the parent know of the requirements, tell her I'll check with her daughter, and remind her that although the homework is important, it's not a huge part of the grade. No, I do not allow makeup work for this assignment, sorry.
    I talk to the daughter, make sure there are no questions and all instructions are completely understood.​
    Week 5: 1/4
    Week 6: 2/4
    I get another email from the parent: she keeps getting a failing grade! WHY?? I explain that I've clarified the requirements multiple times. It really is (truly) an easy requirement to meet. She is not doing it. I ask her again if she has any questions. I have her show me that she indeed knows what to do to know whether she'll get the points.
    We scheduled a conference. The parent did not show. Later, I verbally confirmed in front of the parent, with the student, that the student knew what to do.
    Maria is grounded! Parent announces. She's going to take care of it right away! In a moment of weakness and surrounded by parent apologies about her misunderstandings, I cave (I shouldn't have, I completely know). Mostly I figure, if she'll do the learning, I'll give her points one time only since obviously mom is on her back. I give her explicit instructions (again) on what needs to be done. Parent says, okay, okay, we understand, and thanks me for the second (seventh?) chance.​

    Maria turns in the work on Monday (Today). It is only one of the 6 assignments. In the gradebook, I give points for that one assignment. I thought that was being very reasonable. There is no reason this parent should expect otherwise, right?

    Later today, I get another email saying, "Did you make an error in the gradebook? Maria got all caught up and only one assignment grade was changed, not all of them."

    Here's why I'm hung up a bit. This parent is extremely involved in the PTA. Clearly there is some confusion on the assignment, but I also don't want to get labeled as an overly harsh teacher in the world of our PTA parents. I'm concerned that this parent may go and complain to others in our school community... "Ms. O had an error in the gradebook and wouldn't fix it! My Maria has been working so hard and Ms. O won't give her credit for that work!" It's not like she's blackmailing me or anything, we just have a very gossipy parent group.

    I know I'm in the right here, but these points are so small and at this point I'm irritated I've had to talk with this parent so much about it. Having this child go back and do 3+ hours of late homework for a very small amount of points is not worth it, for me, the child, or the parent. There should not be confusion. I have explained what needs to be done more than I should possibly need to explain.

    How do you deal with parents like these? And what would you do in this specific instance?

    Next year, apparently, I will have an incredibly specific policy on this in my syllabus. I did not plan for it this year, as the assignment is related to something the school really started to focus on in the second half of the year.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
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  3. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    Apr 22, 2019

    Stand strong. She should not get special treatment for being a PTA PITA. I know it can be tough---we have a school community similar to one you describe, and I had to give the school boards president's son his first ever C, as well as write him up once. It just sort of is what it is.You've bent over backwards as it is.
     
  4. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    Apr 23, 2019

    At this point, it's a will issue. As in, the student is choosing not to do the assignment correctly, the student made the choice not to correct the assignments. You were way nicer then I am. She'd take every failing grade she earned. As far as the parent goes, let her run her mouth. Does the PTA sign your paycheck? Do they influence it? Trust me, I've long since been labeled as a difficult teacher (and I've got the syllabus to back me up) and I just laugh at them.
     
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  5. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Apr 23, 2019

    I once had a parent years ago that contacted me over her daughter’s grade (99.6%). Of course, I then CC’d my admin and he later sorted this person, but I digress. Anyway, I was quite miffed that she insisted on having a meeting with me and I politely declined as I was not going to entertain a meeting over a practically perfect grade. The mother then pressed on and asked why her daughter doesn’t have a 100% in my class (AP Calc AB at the time), to which I replied, “Nobody’s perfect.”

    Her daughter was top student still and received an excellent letter of recommendation from me, so it’s all good, but the mother just felt the need to be a micromanager.

    I don’t understand why some parents are like this...
     
  6. txmomteacher2

    txmomteacher2 Connoisseur

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    Apr 23, 2019

    It's been a while since I have had to deal with grades, (teach kinder and only one grade per six weeks) anyway when I taught first grade I had two parents who were obsessed over grades. One was up set that her child's grade dropped from a 96 to a 94. I was like it's two points no big deal. It was to her. Then I had a child not do well on a paper. In fact he failed it. He had never failed anything in his life. Remember just first grade. In fact many of them did not do well on that assignment because they didn't follow directions. (btw this was the end of the year almost 2nd graders should have been following directions) Anyway the mom was mortified that he made a 40 on this paper. She asked if I would change the grade, i said no. She asked if he could do it again, I said no. Then she said well since you aren't budging I am not showing it to him. I said that is your choice. To this day she doesnt speak to me unless it absolutely necessary. There were other instances that year of how much power she thought she had because she was also the PTO president and her sister teaches at our school and they own half the country side. BTW that 40 didn't even drop his average down from the 100 he had. I gave a ton of other grades soooo it didn't even hurt it.
    Don't treat her or her kid any different just because they are the PTO president, the principal's kid, the superintendent kid or the Queen's kid. Kids are kids and they need to learn that power isn't everything, but following directions or turning in the work is everything!
     
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  7. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    Apr 23, 2019

    Lucky you... We don't have the luxury of telling a parent "no" to a parent-teacher conference. So yeah. I've Sat through plenty of those and will tell them to their face this is what your child did, this is what they got, 2+2=4 and what them sputter. I then get the "Well that's not what they deserve!" Or my personal favorite Can't you just bump it up to a 100%?" No, I cannot. This is what they did, this is the points they earned based on that effort, this is the math that equals that grade.

    My other personal favorite when a student absolutely refuses to turn in homework all semester . Then they're barely passing or getting a C- and their parent is all confused. Well you see they haven't turned in homework all semester. Which as you can see all those zeroes really tank your average. Nope, sorry, there's no makeup homework allowed per the syllabus you and your child signed at the beginning of the semester...
     
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  8. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

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    Apr 23, 2019

    The syllabus they signed without reading it because they couldn't be bothered? That syllabus????
     
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  9. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    Yup! That one! I'm very specific with my syllabus it's very detailed. It mentions the topics we'll be covering, a list of labs we could do (note there's way more than we could ever possibly complete), lab safety expectations, classroom expectations. There's my contact information, there's all of the policies and consequences. It even explicitly states 7 times that "Late assignments will not be accepted. The only exception to this is if you are absent from school with a valid reason and either give advanced warning or a retroactive note accompanied by a valid excused absence. All late/missing assignments will be counted as a 0". It's there 7 times, I counted. I have both the parent and student sign and date. Then when they throw it in my face, I whip that magical folder with all of those in it (in alphabetical order) and slowly flip to your page. Yes — I am THAT teacher.
     
  10. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Apr 23, 2019

    I am going to do this next year!

    I already have them sign and date a very detailed syllabus but that binder idea is excellent.
     
  11. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    Apr 23, 2019

    So I'm very detailed-oriented. Show me the numbers, the data that supports what you're telling me. The patterns in the data don't lie. Thus, I keep records. I track patterns. So that when someone wants to act crazy, I bring out all that data and give it to you. Here you go, I'm not just pulling things out of thin air. Consequently, it also means things like that I hang on to, keep it ready for such an occasion that I should need it.
     
  12. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Apr 23, 2019

    :rofl:
     
  13. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Apr 23, 2019

    My favorite is when students are confused because they can’t figure out why a series of consecutive zeros lowers their overall grade. I’m like, “Really?”
     
  14. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    Apr 23, 2019

    I make them Google how averages work. There's a silly kids video out there I have them watch.
     
  15. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    I just write the formula for computing an average on the board and say, “If the numerator gets smaller, then your class average will decrease. SO, if you enter in a bunch of zeros, the resulting fraction is less.” I then stare at them for a few moments and then walk away.
     
  16. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    I like their faces when they watch this video aimed at younger kids. It's like "Really? This is the level of dumb we've fallen?" Yup! Some of my students have difficulty with turning in homework. Which earns them zeroes. And the idea is that you could still technically pass, if you do well on the quizzes/tests and the labs. But there's a catch. The quizzes/tests are basically the homework. And it helps in the labs. So students and up suffering on one of the others.
     
  17. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    Apr 23, 2019

    My students understand this. What they DON'T understand is if homework is 10% of the grade and they currently have a 100% homework average, it won't help their grade if I put in more homework sccores. More homework scores, regardless of what they are, can only bring it down.
     
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  18. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Apr 23, 2019

    Agreed. Weighted grades can be extremely difficult for even many parents to understand.
     
  19. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Apr 24, 2019




    Whatever you do with this child's grades for this year is more of a learning experience for you than for this particular child and parent. I love some of the ideas that have been shared, since where I am at, a teacher would be obligated to conference with the parent who questions the grades. Having hard copies of all the documents that were provided and signed will go a very long way in heading these things off at the pass. To previous posters in this thread - you are so helpful and educational, and I appreciate it!
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
  20. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Apr 24, 2019

    Otter,
    I am getting mixed messages from your post.

    Half of the post is spent talking about how important it is to do the assignment exactly how you expect. I may be wrong but it seems from what you are saying it is more form over substance.

    Then you continually say that the points are not that many. It isn't worth doing the 3+ hours of work to make up the assignments, etc. You even tell the child that the loss of points won't impact her grade that much which basically says the person saying it is so important to do assignments this way doesn't really matter all that much.

    I get even more confused when you say that
    . If this is the case, why are you so frustrated with the child and parent, if you admit they are confused?

    How does your change impact learning?
     
  21. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Apr 24, 2019

    Our school uses a grade weighting system, and the category of "homework" is not worth much.

    Also, while it is helpful work, it's helpful in the week they do it. It's not going to be very beneficial if it all gets done at the end of the term. I can send you a pm that might make more sense, since I was trying not to get too specific.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019

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