Many school districts—I wonder if this is true across the country?—are encouraging and even requiring teachers to inflate their grades. I was told I should give no grade lower than a 60 to my students, even if they earned a 0. I was also encouraged to give easier tests to students who did not perform above a certain standard and to reduce the amount of work I gave them (I am disregarding students for whom we give different work as a matter of legal requirement here).

I don’t doubt that those making these suggestions and embracing them believe that they are helping students (teaching students instead of subjects?); they believe they are setting them on a track for success that will—with this boost–now be easier to tread. But if our data is skewed, how can we make good decisions based on it? And what happens to students who get used to grade inflation down the road?

One reason some Language Arts teachers in NC avoided 7th grade positions for years was that they had to prepare students for  the State Writing Test and were accountable to the whole school for their students’ results based on an objective standard. I landed there for a while and discovered there were students who had been told in previous classes that they were “authors” and “great writers.” They had been given false data about their progress.

When a real standard presents itself—a state writing assessment, a college application essay, a high school End-of-Course test, a job requirement—such students will be rudely awakened to where they stand unless we remain sticklers for accurate data all along.