Having voted a resounding “no” to this debate, some gray areas need to be addressed.
Though students should not be held accountable for their failing grades, it must still be the student’s responsibility to learn the material a classroom and teacher have to offer. It is the instructor’s obligation to offer that information in various forms. Children have diverse ways of learning. In the classroom today there is a mix of the child adept at listening and learning, seeing and learning, hands on learning and so many other various ways of learning, that information must be taught in many different ways.
FAPE, or Free and Appropriate Public Education, acts have made it mandatory to streamline children with many different learning disabilities into one classroom. This is a great thing! Unfortuneatly, even with classroom aides, it is difficult to reach each and every student in the way he needs to be reached. It is even more difficult to grade these students in a way that is fair to their learning abilities and their ability to show how much they have learned.
Grading students using testing measures that are standard in today’s schools is not a viable way to see if a student understands and has learned a school lesson. For various reasons many children do not do well on testing, cannot take part in classroom discussions, cannot “prove” in standard ways that they comprehend a lesson.
Add to this the issue of homework used as a large portion of a student’s grade and many very intelligent students face a very failing grade.
That failing grade does not, in most cases, prove that a student has not retained information. What it does prove is that the grading techniques used are not measuring the amount of knowledge a student has gained in a classroom. Placing a portion of a grade on tests and quizzes when a child is one of those people who have a great deal of trouble taking tests is not a fair assessment. Placing a portion of a grade on homework papers is an even more unfair assessment. (Many young people do not have anyone at home to help if they have questions on homework. Many are ADHD, CAPD, Autistic, or suffer other learning disabilities that make homework a nearly impossible endeavor.)
If a teacher would take those students with lower grades and discuss a lesson, one on one, in a manner more conducive to conversation instead of testing, they may be very surprised to learn how well that student can keep up his end of that conversation. Grades do not mean that one student is “smarter” than another. Granted there are students who learn math better than others, or English, or History. What is one student’s best subject may not be another ones. Some people are cut out to be doctors, some lawyers, and some teachers. Many of those people learned differently also!
A student has a little control over the grade he receives. But he is at the mercy of an instructor who may not be seeing the entire picture of how much he has learned versus how well he can show how much he has learned.
The accountability of a student should be reserved for the knowledge he gains from his studies, not how someone else wishes him to prove it.