Harry Wong
Jan 2017
Vol 14 No 1

Grading At-Risk Kids

By Bill Page

Grades can readily become a substitute for learning.

  • Grades are generally considered grades more important than learning.
  • Grades put the emphasis on test results and encourage cheating.
  • Grades set up a contentious relationship between teacher and students.
  • Grades create an undesirable atmosphere for real or lasting learning.

Grading problems include that they:

    • Require students to compete rather than cooperate, causing them to be unwilling to help one another in class.
    • Cannot be applied fairly, uniformly, and objectively.
    • Contribute to other problems in class and in school.
    • Contribute to dull, uninteresting homework and discussions.
    • Shift the blame and cover up inadequate teaching.

A failing grade often includes factors other than test scores:

  • Frequent and excessive absences regardless of reasons.
  • Display of lack of interest and attention.
  • Failure to participate and exhibiting an attitude of disinterest.
  • Anxiety, demoralization, and fear of results.

Grades are subjective because:

  • Tests, procedures, and scoring are subjective.
  • They represent teacher arbitrary decisions andvalues.
  • A majority of students at every grade level admit to cheating on tests.
  • Tests usually require a single dimension response.

Teachers determinethe teaching, including:

  • Instructional methods, vocabulary, examples, and assignments.
  • Teacher made tests are always arbitrarily constructed and scored.
  • The choice of questions are necessarily subjective, including:

The number of questions and the time allotment.

The choice, wording, and type of the questions,

The content selectively omitted from the test.

Consider these grading factors:

Students feel threatened by the results of a test and the consequences of doing poorly. They remember more information when there is no threat.

Grades are thought to be motivating, but a preponderance of research shows that they are not.

Kids’ determination or estimate of their abilities results from grades and other feedback they get while in the process of learning, grading, and testing.

Success is crucial to a high level of effort and achievement. Failure rarely results in desire to continue participating in the learning activities.

Success is essential to continued high levels of aspiration and achievement; they contribute to the confidence and motivation.

Grades affect high and low level students quite differently—the initial grades of a school year influence successive grades.

An occasional failing grade is not always bad, but continuing discouragement is devastating. Kids learn from encouragement.

Studies show that certain personality characteristics correlate with high achievers compared to low achievers.

Successful achievement at the beginning of the school year readily determines students’ continuing attitude and level of achievement.

“Believing that students are solely responsible for the grades they get, teachers can give F’s willingly. But assuming their fair share of the responsibility and empathy, teachers can create ways to offer success and encouragement–factors that are absolutely essential for kids’ motivation and effort for the present and for the year.” Bill Page


Bill Page is the author of the book, At-Risk Students: Feeling Their Pain, Understanding Their Defensive Ploys.Insights and strategies for kids who can’t, don’t, or won’t learn, try, follow procedures, cooperate, or behave.”

At-Risk Student: One whom teachers cannot motivate, interest, control, or teach via traditional techniques.

The term “At-Risk” refers to being at risk of failure, but it has come to mean “at-certain” of not being taught.

After four decades of teaching, I have discovered that at-risk students are not teaching problems, they are victims of a One-Size-Fits-All educational system that imposes predestined failure on them.


Bills’ book: At-Risk Students:

Feeling their Pain, Understanding Their Plight, Accepting Their Defensive Ploys,

$24.95, by Bill Page, is a 280 page, 6” X 9” soft-cover, 2009, 2nd Edition and satisfaction is unconditionally guaranteed

Bill’s book is available at

Questions, and comments and are welcome

This article appeared in an earlier issue of the Gazette.



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