Category Archives: Grade Curve

On Passing and Failing Students

The current semester of the school year 2021 is drawing to a close. Teachers will soon make a decision – pass or fail their students.

To pass, or not to pass… that is the dilemma that confronts teachers when the performance of some students during an entire term is below par and their total grades go south of the passing mark.

What should the teachers do – pass or fail the students?

Is passing students in a subject or course mandatory on the part of the teachers?

 It’s a different story if a student fails due to absences. The student failed by default. But what if a student is regularly attending classes?

There are possible repercussions should teachers fail their students. When they fail students they had better be ready to answer possible queries from the students themselves or from their parents. Usually, complaints of students, most especially when they are accompanied by their parents, would also lead to school authorities investigating the teachers concerned. It’s not only a matter of being ready to answer questions but the teachers should also prepare class records and other documents that could prove beyond reasonable doubt that the students did not perform well and deserve to get a failing mark.

There are times that teachers thought that they have exhausted all possible means to help the students perform better but to no avail… that they have tried different strokes for different folks, but none of the strokes they applied worked.

But the painful truth is that there are also teachers who would not walk an extra mile to help students improve on their academic performance.

Now, granting that the teachers have done everything they possibly could to help the students pass but their efforts proved futile, would failing the students be considered justifiable already?

Should teachers be applauded when they  take the moral high  ground and say that schools are committed to excellence and passing failing students would be tantamount to promoting mediocrity?

Failing students is not a simple decision to make. Whether or not to pass students is a path that teachers have to tread carefully. There are a lot of things to be considered before making the final decision. There are questions that the teachers need to answer very clearly. Questions that would lead to more questions.

Do the grades teachers give truly reflect the abilities of the students? Let’s say that the answer is yes. The next question would be, “Were the tests the teachers made valid? Did the teachers make sure that their tests measured what they intended to measure?

There are more questions – Were the tests the teachers designed congruent with the strategies they used when they presented their lessons? What informed the strategies that they have selected? What foundation of learning and teaching did they stand upon when they delivered their lessons? Did they consider the abilities of their students when they designed the activities in the class? Or is it a matter of whatever decisions they make as teachers are contingent upon their personal comfort?

Yes, the role of the teacher is that complicated. That’s why the decision to pass or not to pass students is actually an examination of the teachers’ conscience. It is answering the ultimate question – “Did I really do my job as a teacher?”

Ask teachers if they are really doing the things expected of them and their response would be an unequivocal yes.


So here is another question – “Why would students fail if teachers are doing their job well?”

The question above leads us to the next question – “When students fail does it mean they did not learn?”

Students failing means  they did not pass the majority (if not all) of the tests (short or long, oral or written) the teachers gave during the entire term. All of those tests are meant to evaluate learning that was supposed to have taken place when the teachers discussed their lessons and did all the activities they designed for the class. So, if the students failed the tests it would mean they did not learn.

Why did the students not learn? What happened? Did the teachers bother to know why? Could there be something wrong with their strategies? Like their strategies probably did not work or something could be wrong with their  methods of testing. Yet, they did not bother to adjust and allowed the accumulation of failed tests on the part of the students.

Only the teachers who are pedagogically trained would be able to detect when something is not right with what they are doing. If they are true to their calling as teachers, they would do something about it. They will make the necessary adjustments. If they don’t care then may God bless the students.  It’s much worse when those hired to teach are not really trained as teachers. They don’t have the pedagogical skills to understand what is really happening. For them, it’s just a matter of when the students don’t get the scores required they fail. That’s it.

Let’s bring back one of the questions posed earlier – “When students fail does it mean they did not learn?”

If the answer to this is yes it means that the grades of the students reflect not only their performance but that of their teachers as well.

How true is it that “it’s not teaching if there’s no learning.” Can the teachers claim they did their job as teachers even if their students fail?”

When students fail the tests meant to evaluate learning then the activities designed and strategies selected fail to help achieve the objectives. It is the responsibility of the teachers to make sure  that their objectives are attainable and the corresponding activities and strategies  are effective. It is their responsibility to make sure that their students would succeed. It is as simple as that. A philosophical mind is not needed to grasp that… just common sense would do.

The worst thing that can happen to students is to have teachers whose view of education is myopic – teachers who judge students according to the numbers they crunch during tests and recitations.  The students are much more valuable than those numbers.

Education transcends all statistical data that teachers collect during a school term. Yes, there are written rules. There are policies and regulations. But they are not absolute. Education cannot be confined to a box. It is more than black and white. It is as colorful as the rainbow. Teachers should lead their students to the proverbial end of that rainbow where a pot of gold  – a good future – awaits them


On Grades and the Hiring Process


The reason students are so obsessed in getting the highest grades possible (A+ or 1 or 5 or what have you) is that the higher the grades arrayed in the transcript of records the higher is their chance of getting employed. This is the paradigm that the academe and society in general slowly constructed in the consciousness of these young people as they grow up and develop as individuals.

This is the way they are trained and developed in a society that thrives on competition. Society has devised a way of identifying the cream of the crop, the top dogs among young people. It’s like the government and the corporate world, in connivance with the academic community, concocted a scheme of pinpointing who among the young populace are the best prospects for leadership positions in both the public and the private sectors in the future. Who among them will be managers and supervisors, who will stay in the rank and file and who will do the dirty jobs. They put tags on them to make sure that they are identifiable during selection processes in the future. And what are those tags? GRADES!

So, the young graduates have tags, their grades listed in their transcript of records. They (the graduates) think that when they are recruited for jobs by the government and the private sectors they have the indelible marks. If they don’t have the As they’re doomed, unlikely to be hired or if ever hired they will be relegated to the lowliest positions forever.

The best and the brightest, the ones with As, they thought, are the only ones who would get hired easily and be given the choicest positions.

Students need to be told that grades are not the be-all and end-all of education. They need to understand that schooling is not just a preparation for a place in the world of work but for life in general.

Students need to understand that while it’s true that good grades are important, it does not guarantee employment. It does not follow that when in your transcript of records you have all As then certainly both the public and the private sectors would open their doors to let you in.

The transcript of records, where the HOLY As are listed, is but an attachment to a curriculum vitae which when submitted constitute only step 1 of a 4-step hiring process.

Having As would certainly create an initial good impression but no company or organization worth its salt would hire people only on the basis of GRADES.

Hiring has always been a 4-step process.

STEP 1: Submission of Resume and corresponding documents and attachments

STEP 2: Interview (or a series of interviews)

STEP 3: Tests (Intelligence, Aptitude and Psychological)

STEP 4: Demonstration of Skills

Companies and organizations who are serious in the trade they are plying know that the best way to filter applicants is make them undergo  all the steps aforementioned.

No organization will hire an applicant after presenting a transcript of records with nothing but As.  There are organizations who render a decision to hire or not after STEP No. 2. That’s their prerogative.

But if the intent is to get the best people then none of the steps should be dispensed with, most specially STEP No. 4, the demonstration of skills. The real capability of an applicant can not be efficiently measured in an interview. Applicants can not just rhetorically explain what are they are capable of doing. They should be made to show and prove  what they could, not tell it.

So, students who may not get the highest academic marks (A+ or 1 or 5 or what have you) need not despair. They just need to prepare and make sure they  are ready for the job interview, the tests, and most importantly , the demonstration of skills.

Those who get the highest grades are not always the best and brightest, specially in settings where the Grave Curve is implemented.




We label students as pesky when they keep pestering us with questions about their scores in quizzes and exercises. We find them annoying when near the end of a semester or shortly after final exams they send emails or call to inquire about their grades.

We say they are desperate when after knowing their grades they move heaven and earth to make us reconsider it and give them higher marks citing 101 reasons we need to do so, some of which are valid, some pure antics.

There are times when some teachers drop the correction fluid unto the grades they have given because they get moved either by the appeal of the students or by pressure from upstairs.
We often criticize students for being so grade-conscious.

But is it their fault?


Students are grade-conscious not because they want to but standards of society force them to be. The policies and procedures in the academe framed that kind of mind-set in the consciousness of students. They are seemingly programmed to become grade-conscious.

It all begins at home. Parents keep reminding their children to study hard and get good grades. When the children get to school, the indoctrination goes full steam. Teachers give a battery of tests and exercises telling the students to perform well if they want to pass the subject. And that if they want to be part of the honor roll then they need to have high scores.

Parents tell students to study hard, the teachers tell them to study harder. Day and night students are told that they must get good grades. After school, parents would even acquire the services of a tutor to further improve the academic performance of their children.

That’s how the “getting-good-grades-is-a-must” mentality gets ingrained in the consciousness of the poor little kids.

Companies and corporations deliver the coup de grace by frequently advertising that they hire only the best and brightest. And what’s the tangible measurement of these superlatives (best and brightest)? GRADES…A+, or 1 or 5 or what-have-you.

Society have assigned GRADES as proof of excellence. Academic performance of students is measured through their grades. The higher the grades the more excellent is the student. That’s how it goes.
RESULT? The students become grade-conscious. The grades they receive is a microscope and they are the specimen in the slide. Their academic marks are like scalpels used to dissect the contents of the shell between their ears.

The parents want them to work hard for their grades. Yes, perhaps for the children’s sake but the grades they receive is an instrument used by the parents in monitoring their investment. They want to make sure that
their children are not wasting the money they are spending for their education.
Parents become so mad when their children present to them unsatisfactory academic marks. And of course, when their children perform well academically, they are elated no end. It is a boost to their pride, a feather in their caps.

The schools in any country stretch their students to the limits of academic achievement because when students pass standardized examinations given by their governments it redounds to their benefit. It’s good for ranking and accreditation purposes. It’s a boost to their reputation. It’s good for marketing.

The parents and the teachers keep telling the kids that good grades is a prerequisite to success, the only way to get a good job. Thus the students think that the purpose of education is purely economic, to prepare them for a job. And if they fail to get good marks their future is doomed. They will not succeed.

This is the way the students are brainwashed into getting the highest marks possible. This is what developed among students a tunnel vision about education, that it’s all about getting good grades in order to be among the best and the brightest to who the big companies and corporations would give a chance to get a high-paying job.

The grades have seemingly become a curse. The grades take joy off learning. They make students prisoners in the classrooms and the teachers the unforgiving and unrelenting prison guards.

The grades put blinders on the students preventing them from seeing the bigger picture, that education is more than getting good grades and that the purpose of education goes beyond getting a job.

It’s sad that both the parents and the educators themselves are the ones putting the blinders on the students. They are the ones who put enormous pressure on the students to get good grades.

There’s nothing wrong if we help students to excel and to get the highest marks possible but we must not forget to tell them at the same time that grades are not the be-all and end-all of schooling. The students need to be told that the world doesn’t end if they don’t receive A+.

Schools must not forget that they exist to prepare the students, not only to find a job after graduation, but to live life and be a productive member of society and humanity.

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