View Full Version : Grading High School Papers

08-20-2011, 02:39 PM
Okay, very basic question from a British person trying to understand the US high school system here...

Is it down to a teacher's discretion if and when a student can resubmit an assignment he/she either 1) missed 2) scored a zero or 3) scored lower than expected. Or are there absolute rules (either nationally or within a district) on what happens?

I'm trying to figure out whether it's realistic for a student to score badly, and the teacher offers the chance to try again. And if it's equally realistic for a missed assignment to land a zero without any chance at trying again.

08-20-2011, 04:31 PM
AS far as I know, it's up to the teacher's discretion. Teachers in the USA used to get more respect than they do now. If a teacher was trying to give the student a lesson and didn't allow an assignment to be made-up, the parents would go to the teacher and the principal and in some cases, make such a stink about going to the school board the teacher would be overruled, especially if the school is a private one. Most of the time principals stand behind teachers, but many parents have become increasingly vocal as they try to micromanage their children's lives. Because of this, IMHO, teachers are less respected by (some) parents and by students than they were a generation ago. But children in general are less respectful to adults so it's not the entire reason for the problem.

08-20-2011, 06:31 PM
In general: Theoretically it's the teacher's discretion as to whether a student can resubmit an assignment or not. The teacher would be under a lot of pressure from parents & administration to let the student resubmit an assignment the student missed for some reason. There'd be less pressure if the student got a zero, or scored lower than they wanted to. Though some school systems, particularly at the middle school/jr high school level, have instituted a bizarre rule called "mastery learning." It basically states that students can take a test over and over and over again until they get the grade they want. I've never seen this at the high school level but you could probably make it a school district policy if you wanted (if so, it would be a huge bone of contention in the school, not just something to gloss over).

Your specific questions: Most high school teachers would not give a student a chance to retake an assignment if they scored badly unless there were extenuating circumstances. I.e. something happening in the student's home life that the teacher knows about or the entire class failed miserably on the assignment. Many teachers hand out zeros for missed homework assignments and don't allow the student a chance to get partial credit/make it up, but there would be a HUGE fuss if the teacher tried to do the same thing for a missed quiz, test or in-class essay. Even if the student has obviously cut class or something similar, the teacher will probably have to let the student do a make-up assignment.

08-20-2011, 10:37 PM
In public schooling in CA, almost everything is up to the teacher. They have certain things they have to teach, say certain books or specific historical periods, and everything depends on testing. Most HS teachers here, and I hope I don't offend anyone by saying this, teach to the test. At least in the Central Valley, where the schools rank fairly low, to my knowledge. Teachers know what will be on the state-wide tests, which help decide if they will be kept on for next year, so they focus on teaching those things. If a student didn't turn in a paper or completely failed, it is up to the teacher whether they can resubmit. I had teachers that said absolutely no way, you don't turn it in by this date, you're screwed. And I've had some where if you just say, my dog wasn't feeling good so I had to take care of him, they'll let you resubmit for full credit possibility.

So short answer, in public schools in rural/poorer areas, up to the teacher.

08-20-2011, 10:50 PM
From my experience, it boils down to the teacher/student relationship.
It's realistic for a student to fail an assignment, have a one-on-one with an understanding teacher, and be granted a do-over. It depends on how far the teacher is willing to compromise with the standards of his profession, and his own morals. Is the student a favorite? Is the student regularly missing work?
Of course there are absolute rules, but the teacher as an individual chooses how far to enforce those rules.

08-21-2011, 08:33 AM
It depends on the local culture. I've never heard of anyone setting absolute rules, but I could see it happening on the smaller levels such as a single district. Frankly, if the state tried to make a blanket law for all teachers to follow, they would have one heck of a fight on their hands. Most teachers I know, including myself, would view that as invasive micromanaging. Two examples that might help:

I went to High School "A" in a very nice neighborhood. Suburban, pretty affluent, extremely high test scores, that sort of thing. It was understood that the chance to re-do work was a privilege, and the teacher had every right to refuse such a request. Most of the time they let us do it, but not always. The only universal rule was that if you had an excused absence (for example, if you were sick), you had three days to collect all the work you had missed and turn it in. If you were unexcused (cutting class or something like that), you had no such right. That rule was set by the principal and only applied to our specific school.

I taught at High School "B" in a less nice neighborhood in the same city a few years later. Also technically considered suburban (we were the first neighborhood outside the urban core), though it felt like the inner city school I student taught at. The community was generationally poor and the schools were struggling to maintain accreditation. We had no set rules whatsoever. However, my students assumed that they automatically had the right to re-do work however many times they wanted, whenever they felt like it, and that I had to accept it for full credit no questions asked. When I refused on the basis that deadlines are important and there have to be consequences for one's choices, they made a HUGE fuss about it. Much to my surprise, the other teachers supported my students, arguing that "they did it eventually so it didn't really matter". It went all the way to my principal (unofficially; as far as the district was concerned, nothing was happening), who thankfully accepted my comparison to a teacher "eventually" writing lesson plans and gently chided us all about having higher standards before letting us go straight back to deciding for ourselves how it would work in our own classrooms.

I'll also say that in both high schools, some of it does boil down to relationships. Teachers do cut the "good" kids more slack. I had a teacher completely waive an assignment for me once - completely unheard of in my high school - just because I worked so hard in his class otherwise. And as a teacher, I often used the privilege to cut deals with my students. For example, be on time for the rest of the week to prove that you're serious, and I'll let you re-do assignments x, y, and z.

08-21-2011, 09:27 AM
At the private high school I went to, it was pretty much up to the teacher's discretion as to how students could make up or re-do assignments. Most of the teachers outlined their policies though, and pretty much stuck to it for everybody, so unless there was a particularly outstanding case, everyone more or less got treated the same, though what that policy was varied from teacher to teacher. One of the "typical" policies I encountered from a few teachers was that you could re-take an exam or re-write an essay as many times as you wanted to in order to improve your grade, but if it was a re-do, you could only make it up to a certain level of grade. So you could improve your C- as many times as you wanted, but since you were re-doing it, it could never be more than a B+ or something. Of course, some teachers were more liberal or more strict than others.

08-22-2011, 05:27 AM
There are a few nationally or state mandated tests that kids take these days - the TASP is one of them (but don't ask me what it stands for.)

For these tests, the score is final, but those are a once or twice yearly occurance (usually administered to rank schools and determine funding.)

Aside from these exceptions, its up to the teacher. In my experience the teacher won't allow you to take the same test over, but will give you a 'make up test' or assign something else - an extra credit assignment so you can earn the points.

08-22-2011, 06:32 PM
Thanks very much everyone - this helps a lot.

08-24-2011, 07:52 PM
One thing that might not be readily apparent to a Briton is that we have few national standards. Aside from the contentious No Child Left Behind law, which revolves around results of standardized tests, policy is set at the school district level, and some, like the assignments and homework you are asking about is set at the school or even individual teacher level.

We don't have a National Curriculum. In some areas we don't even have a school-district-wide standard curriculum. For example, when I was student teaching (mumbldy years ago) one of the districts I taught in had the same text books in every school for every grade. This was because the district was poor and many students moved from school to school as their dwellings changed around and the district wanted at least SOME continuity for those kids. But in other districts, they offered a choice of text books for each grade and the Principal (headmaster) or teachers chose which books to use.

The US is so large and varied that a national curriculum is highly impractable. The overall policies are usually set at the school district level and there are several school districts per state. Sometimes even more than one per city if it's large (or old) enough.

08-24-2011, 08:42 PM
Okay, very basic question from a British person trying to understand the US high school system here...

Is it down to a teacher's discretion if and when a student can resubmit an assignment he/she either 1) missed 2) scored a zero or 3) scored lower than expected. Or are there absolute rules (either nationally or within a district) on what happens?

I'm trying to figure out whether it's realistic for a student to score badly, and the teacher offers the chance to try again. And if it's equally realistic for a missed assignment to land a zero without any chance at trying again.

My Dad was a high school English teacher for 30+ years, and most of my family has worked in the public school system at one point or another.

A few things that might not occur to us on the US side that you do need to know on the UK side if you're writing about the US. Bear with me, as I have a direct answer to your question, but I want to communicate the nuances as best I can.
1)there is NOT a nationally/federally regulated school system in the United States. We do not have a single overarching educational program. Some money gets distributed to the state, and the state determines curriculum, funding, etc. for the school systems in its state. How the curriculum is applied is determined by locally elected officials - in some states, the superintendent of schools is a political office, in others it is a person hired by the school board. All public school systems have a board of local citizens, some with kids in school, some without, who oversee curriculum, funding for sports programs (sports are hugely emphasized in public schools here, often because they bring in financial donations/sponsorships) and staff and sometimes student disciplinary situations.

2)Whether a teacher has discretion over whether s/he can help a student after something is incomplete depends on both state regulations and any policies set forth by the school board. A private or parochial school may offer a lot more - or a lot less - freedom in that area.

Most of the time, the answer is "yes, the teacher has discretion" but in schools where athletics is a big money maker and the team (American football or basketball) if a contender for a state championship, a teacher may be allowed more discretion with an athlete than with a kid in drama or the marching band.