Schools & Grading: Why Do Teachers Give Good Grades for Poor Work?

Posted January 23, 2012 by

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I am probably the only parent looking at a child’s grades and saying, “A’s & B’s? HOW CAN THAT BE? I want answers!” My stepson is in the 6th grade. He comes home each night and struggles with his homework. We have determined that he skims — everything. He skims the directions. He skims the reading assignment. He guesses at multiple choice. He will copy sentences the teacher wrote, word for word, as an answer. If asked to reword in is own words, he will change one word. If asked to write 3-5 sentences, you can be sure he will write 3, but say the same thing, 3 different ways. He cannot spell; he mixes capital letters with lower case. He writes above the line and over top of other letters below. He has no clue how to use punctuation. The curious thing is that his work is considered acceptable.

He will do a workbook assignment for Reading class homework and it will be so completely wrong. It will be obvious he did not follow the directions, or that he used the directions from a previous assignment. Sometimes we have him redo, but we have since discovered that the teacher does not actually READ the homework, but walks by to see that it is done. He could fill the page with anything and get full credit! Okay, so I get that homework is not a huge percentage of the grade. So, what is he doing in class? Is his work completely different in class than at home? Is he copying from the kid next to him? Is the teacher spending tons of extra time explaining to him? Isn’t homework an extension of what was learned in class that day? Does he just forget everything he learned by evening? How is it possible that he can absolutely have no clue when it comes to homework time but still have an A in the class?

I have seen papers he has written for homework. They are awful. He will do them quickly and miss the point of the assignment entirely. I have asked him to rewrite, explaining what it was he was supposed to have done. He will then redo it pretty closely to what was expected. I know he CAN do it. But if this is what he does at homework time, what is he turning in during the day? Would the teacher have accepted the first paper, had he not rewritten it? The interesting thing is that when he does the rewrites, he does it on his own, many times not even using any examples I pointed out to him. He could have done it correctly the first time, but never does! When we talk with him it’s easy to figure out where he went wrong, or where he got the answers he got. He needs to be redirected and we need to explain step-by-step. Sometimes he will even say a teacher never mentioned a particular topic in class and he is clueless as to how to do the assignment that evening.

As for multiple choice, it is so obvious he is guessing. He should play the horses! How long can you pass school with guesses? A very clear example is a paper he did recently. He had to read about birds and their habitats. This particular bird lives in Canada but migrates to Texas. When asked where the bird lived, one choice was Texas. He chose that. I read the passage myself and saw that a sentence stating where the bird lived was at the beginning of the paragraph, but underneath was a new sentence about Texas. He pulled out the words “lives” and “Texas” which jumped right off the page because they were right on top of one another. Obviously that was marked wrong, but several were correct. He admitted he never even read the passage! Are his passing grades pure luck? When will his luck run out?

When he moved in with us he started 4th grade in a different county from where he lived with his mom. We discovered he had not learned how to write in cursive.  When we spoke with his teachers, they looked at us as if we were asking something ridiculous. They told us cursive is not important and they would not be teaching it. I mentioned that his printing was horrible and they said if they could read it, it was fine.

Are my expectations too high? This is not my first child, nor is he the only child who has gone through the same county’s public school system. He is also not the only one of the children to have ADHD. ADHD children tend to do the least amount of work possible. When asked to write 3-5 sentences, they will write only 3. But my other boys, although they also only wrote the three, seemed to write what the teacher was asking. They both learned cursive in elementary school. The teachers corrected their papers with proper letter formation, capitalization, and punctuation. My older son had a teacher in second grade who insisted he have a smaller desk so he could sit properly, feet on the floor (not folded up under him), so he could form letters correctly.

My stepson recently got a progress report from a teacher. He threw it down in frustration because he could not read it. She had written in cursive! We mailed a letter together recently and he had no idea where to put the stamp or where his address or the recipient’s would go. In this age of computer are children not being taught these skills? As mentioned above, I have two older children. My oldest is 21, the next one 14. There is a 7-year gap in their schooling, and now this one is 3 years behind the 14 year old. Have things changed that dramatically in such short a time?

I have gone to school over the years to meet with teachers and see where my children needed assistance when their grades were not good. I do not expect children to pull straight As. I did not go to teachers and demand that my children get better grades. I worked with the teachers and my children to get whatever grade they could earn honestly. If they got a poor grade for not turning papers in on time or doing poor work, then they dealt with the grade. Going to school now and asking why this child is getting A’s for work that is clearly not A work is another ballpark altogether!


I am a mom of two boys, ages 16 and 22, both with ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. I have remarried and my husband has 2 boys, ages 13 and 16. The 13 year old lives with us, and has some behavioral problems and attachment issues. There is always something happening at our house!

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