Grade Fixing – Fact or Fiction?

Report cards for the first reporting period of the academic year recently went home for parent review. The question is, were these grades a true reflection of student progress? A number of teachers have reported they were directly or subtly made to understand that “every student will do well.”

A teacher recently wrote ISR to say that after a student achieved 4 ‘Ds’ on a series of exams, she was instructed to alter her method of grading and count each ‘D’ as two points. On a scale of 1-10, the four ‘Ds’ added up to eight or 80%, which equaled a report card grade of ‘B.’

Another teacher reports that he gave his student a ‘C’ on the report card and later noticed the grade had been changed to an ‘A’. When he questioned the director he was told, “This is an honor student, and to help you save face we raised the grade to what this student would have earned if you were a better teacher.”

Altering kids’ grades to keep the paying customers (aka: parents) happy is certainly the exception and not the norm. But the practice may be far more prevalent than previously assumed. ISR recently received a letter from a teacher outlining how his school expected teachers to alter the grades of a few students on a special list, “the wealthy and/or powerful client list.” This teacher felt belittled and betrayed, but also extremely concerned for these same students naively applying, and being accepted to Western universities.

Have you personally been asked to alter grades? What’s your school’s policy? In the end, teachers may experience a conflict of conscience in the short-term, but ultimately it’s the students who suffer from this deception. Exposing schools that encourage grade fixing on ISR reviews is one step toward curbing this practice. What are YOUR thoughts and experiences with grade fixing?

103 Responses to Grade Fixing – Fact or Fiction?

  1. After 14 yrs. in the Middle East, I can tell you that you are dealing with a Hydra here! This practice is so prevalent in the Middle East that it is almost ‘the rule’ rather than ‘the exception’. How do you expect a school to function according to Judeo-Christian ethics (and enforce them on the students) when the concepts of ‘wasta’ (influence) and ‘washra’ (money buys you anything – loose translation) are inherent in the culture? You can ‘cut off one head’, but the issue will come back to you, again & again! Also, the IB marks are NOT indicative of a ‘brilliant’ (or ‘above average’) student anymore. I have a close friend (& ex-colleague) who is an IB-DP Coord. in a large HS in the U.S. He says that more & more top-ranked universities are complaining that students who came ‘highly-recommended’ and who scored in the 40’s on the DP aggregate marks are failing-out in their first semester. The reason? Many (most?) schools are now teaching ‘to the test’ rather than making their students learn the subject! The first IB workshop I went to (Math Higher Level) included an IB Deputy Chief Examiner who stood up before the rest of us and said, “I don’t teach the IB. I teach Mathematics!” Then, “My students can take the IB, AP, French Baccalaureate, or any other exam. If they’ve passed my course, they should pass the test!!!” This has always been my approach to ANY subject I’ve taught, but there is more and more opposition to this from: a) teachers who don’t want to rock the boat ; b) parents who wanted their children to attend ‘the best’ universities’; and c) administrators who are just covering their butts! This has become a pandemic problem, so how do we fix it? Is it ‘fixable’???

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    • Marty says:

      I have taught several years in Kuwait and totally agree with what you have to say about wasta and that this type of corruption is deeply engrained into the cultural fabric. Students and parents see nothing wrong with buying marks. as a result I have seen students with learning disabilities who would normally have lower marks go on to European and North American colleges and universities. While in China at an elite school parents routinely paid for positions in the school and the principal retired young and wealthy. As an admissions officer in North America I would assume marks from these areas to be corrupted and act accordingly.

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  2. Patricio says:

    if there is a blacklist for teachers who supposedly don´t comply with their contracts, why isn ´t there a blacklist for superintendents, schools and countries where the jungle law rules?

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Teaching abroad…being intimidated into changing student grades…”Suitcase Filled with Nails: Lessons Learned from Teaching Art in Kuwait,” my recently published book, could be considered a guide if you are thinking about teaching in the Middle East.

    Yvonne Wakefield

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    • Omanio says:

      I’d be interested in reading your book “Suitcase filled with Nails”. Is it only available in the Middle East or through other publishing or bookshops in NA? Sounds interesting.

      Like

      • Its-a-wonderful-world-we-share says:

        You can buy a Kindle version for 3.99 – an interesting read. I couldn’t understand why Yvonne stayed 6 years – it must have been her relationship with her students.

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    • Marty says:

      I always had a bag packed in Kuwait in case I offended the wrong people I was ready to leave the country. I saw friends go to jail for dating the wrong person, nannies falling off balconies because they had become pregnant by the “Man of the House” be that a father or son. Kuwait is not a logical or sane place to teach and human rights violations are every where. I had a student come to class late who explained he had to “catch” his maid. The benefits and pay is not worth what Kuwaities expect from foreigners. They expect servitude.

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  4. anon says:

    If only SA, ECIS and the international Parent community actually banded together to stamp out unqualified staff, emotionally abusive admin and even “coordinators” who have gained posts by gaining personal favor/faking CV details and worse…. It is hideous that these same corrupt admin and teachers also often resort to spreading false rumors to libel and black-list good teachers (and sometimes even students) who get in their way and see throught their carefully constructed fascade. I know that this happens at all spectrums of the international school market. I also know it happens in public schools in the US.

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  5. Patricio says:

    “placement of underqualified teachers in “coordinator” posts, disingenuous bully admin (equally underqualified)…and worse. The problem is, however, that bullies have no shame. They don’t care. Especially after the fact. What is worse is that other teachers and normally decent staff members went along with it to save their jobs in an already troubled school. For swallowing their integrity they were rewarded with contract renewal.”

    This is so true; And it doesn´t happen in third class schools; it happens in schools with a good reputation too. I could not cope with the Superintedent Bully and the crooks he put in key posts who took and are taking all sorts of advantages like paid trips to seminars and workshops abroad, etc, so a large group of teachers resigned. I have returned to my hometown and I earn less but I am at ease with my conscience and happy. Money is not all.

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  6. anon says:

    I agree with the comment that bullies should be named and shamed, This rings true especially when they are putting pressures on good teachers to satisfy students and parents above and beyond what the students actually demonstrate they are capable of. I was pressured and bullied by both students and admin. This was indirectly related to grades in that a group of students challenged the grades they earned and then tried to bully, (along with the support of the admin) their way to an A. The focus was put on my “inability to listen to the students” and other accusations were made that were not true as well. They used the sitation to press the “snow-ball” button to try to bully me but they also did this to other teachers and office staff. TThe disagreement regarding grades was just a symtom of larger problems of mobbing, the placement of underqualified teachers in “coornator” posts, disingenuous bully admin (equally underqualified)…and worse. The problem is, however, that bullies have no shame. Th ey don’t care. Espececially after the fact. What is worse is that other teachers and normally decent staff members went along with it to save their jobs in an already troubled school. For swallowing their integrity they were rewarded with contract renewal.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had veteran colleagues tell me that I should never record a score of less than 4 (on the IB’s 7 pt scale) because “It’s just not worth it.” I thought, “WTF??? You’re just making the job harder for all of us!”

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    • following the rules says:

      What were you doing recording scores? are you an IB examiner? that’s a pretty serious claim. Since many on this site are so hellbent on the necessity to name names…please go for it. Who is this “veteran colleague” who encouraged you never to give a 4? Where are you working “anonymous?” What school, administrator, etc. allows you to morally compromise yourself. Please. name names.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Ummm, I don’t think you read my post if you think I’m compromising myself. I said the colleague doesn’t record less than a 4 for any student. I never said that was my practice. (Maybe “report” would be a better word choice since I’m talking about the mark recorded in the grade book.)

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  8. Patricio Gonzalez says:

    “2. Admin can change mid-stream while at a school – we all know that the climate can change greatlly due to this – is this the teachers fault for not picking up and leaving with the prior administer?”

    There is an International school in my country which was an excellent choice 8 years ago, but the change of Admin made it go down the drain. The superintendent surrounded himself by a group of adulators and took such stupid decisions that many people with a little bit of moral quit. Some of the teachers there are still working with this sad example of man because they don´t have any other choice or are waiting for things to improve. He is still in charge and things are not better.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    An anti-union teacher should be right at home in China. I’m sure you feel similarly about child labor laws.

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    • China Teacher says:

      Oh, well done sir/ma’am. I love the way the ISR web site brings out the intellectual heavyweights.

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      • concerned about academic ethics says:

        Dear China Teacher,

        Your entire argument is based on the fact that teachers do not do their research before accepting a job and therefore should not complain when the school asks them to change a grade? Have you considered the following?

        1. If teachers did not bring their experiences to the forefront, how would other teachers find out about pressing issues at a school they are applying? You are criticizing those who help you to choose the elite teaching positions you seemingly have.
        2. Admin can change mid-stream while at a school – we all know that the climate can change greatlly due to this – is this the teachers fault for not picking up and leaving with the prior administer? I guess that your answer would be, “Yes”. Teachers have to take a lot into consideration before picking up and moving to another post such as spousal employment and children to name a few..
        3. Utopian schools do not exist. I have been teaching overseas for over 17 years. I have yet to be at a school without issues. Have I ever been asked to change a grade? No. But I am not about to act that it is due to my doing research before accepting a position at a school. Depending on the cirumstnaces, it could happen anywhere, anytime.

        Let’s get back to the actual issue that this blog was intended;, are teachers being asked to fix grades? If so, this is an issue of integrity and ethics. Can anything be done? It is a valid question, China teacher, we don’t need your pompous attitude.

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        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t think we’re looking for utopian schools here. We’re talking about ethical vs. unethical ones.

          Yes, we are getting away from the original topic, but grade-fixing is usually part of the profile of a school engaged in more widespread pedagogical, administrative and financial malpractice. Can a teacher tell this about a school before accepting a job? No, especially when there is a recruiter vouching for the school. But there are quite often MULTIPLE red flags on the school’s website that would hopefully steer one with just rudimentary judgment away from it. Unfortunately, this is not happening enough. Teachers, for whatever mind boggling reason, are taking shady jobs, renewing shady contracts and making us ALL look like amateurs in the process.

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        • Marty says:

          My school in China discovered a scam whereby internal personal were selling report card blanks to parents. Parents were eager to wine and dine teachers and admin in return for mark favours. Corruption in China is normal and to stand in its way does take courage. Depends how much you value your job. Who really gets hurt in the end…the students who go on thinking they actually have talent and ability when they have lived in an environment with no accountability.

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    • Mr C says:

      That’s right! I’ll bet that China Teacher also speaks Chinese and eats a lot of rice.

      Seriously?

      I’ll say from my own personal experience, and not because I was told to believe this by my teaching union or by my anti-union school district back home… the NEA, like many unions, serves a purpose. It keeps superintendents from pulling the kind of shenanigans that are unfortunately commonplace in too many international schools. They keep the bosses at bay. At the same rate, I feel they too often overstep their role, making unreasonable demands that don’t help the students or teachers in the long run. They just want to feel useful.

      In the end, my state union was unable to serve their stated purpose of keeping my job secure, thus necessitating my flight into this sort of refugee status abroad. I found the union reps spent most of their time slandering our super and using their position of power to better secure their own jobs — not the jobs of the teachers they supposedly represented. I know this will draw some serious ire from the “solidarity forever” crowd, but I like China Teacher, I was not a union fan back home. I found the unions back home pretty self-serving and downright anti-socialist. Where we really need some union representation is out here in the wild west of international teaching, where teachers don’t really have rights or legal recourse.

      Maybe this discussion belongs in a new thread? Moderator?

      Like

  10. China Teacher says:

    “…for the love of God, smarten up, put on your BS detector, exercise the critical thinking skills educators are supposedly known for, and don’t accept a job there.”

    Well said, Anonymous Oct. 29, 2:11 pm. I love this thread!

    Let me suggest that one of the reasons some first-time international teachers come out of the West into abusive employment situations is their habituation to working in unionized environments* and protective employment law. In many countries around the world, even some thought of as developed nations, there are virtually no legal protections for non-citizen workers. Your embassy/consulate cannot help you. The newspapers do not care. Your co-workers are as hobbled as you are. Local lawyers run screaming from your case. You can vent on ISR but that’s as far as it goes.

    You are, literally, on your own.

    This is not so say you shouldn’t teach internationally. Done right, it is an excellent professional experience and rewarding in very many ways. But you have to be intelligent about it. “Deer in the headlights” is an apt description of the naive innocence with which some teachers exit the airport. Before you take the plunge, get tons of advice from experienced, independent people.

    *Don’t get the impression I like education unions. While there are occasional positive contributions, most often they are on the wrong side of the problem and I am sooooo glad to have them out of my professional life.

    Like

  11. Anonymous says:

    At our school–International School of Myanmar–we had cheating student on a calculus test. He was given a zero…at first. But he new the Board. Director changed grade to a C and never tell the teacher that this happened.

    Is this mostly for-profit schools? Or just what people do with power?

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      My school routinely has students (especially friends/relatives of the owners) who fail courses, but miraculously progress to the next grade without ever repeating courses. It’s a mystery! (tongue-in-cheek)

      Like

  12. Jude says:

    Wesgreen International School in Sharjah, AUE goes even better. Teachers have been known to accept substantial gifts in return for grade inflation – flat screen televisions, holidays abroad etc etc. Last term there was a supposed ‘scandal’. A teacher who was a ‘friend’ of the administration had to be fired because he was coaching the child of one of the local families of considerable standing and allowed this child access to exam papers. Clearly he was just lightly ‘fired’ rather than the full biscuit glaze, because this individual resurfaced some weeks later and is now re-employed elsewhere in the emirates where, I have no doubt, his ‘protection’ covers his other nasty little little foibles. Until someone trains the students and their gullible parents that formative assessment will achieve greater progress, they will always demand high marks because that is what they think they pay from even if little Ahmed is as thick as two short planks.

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    • omanio says:

      Ah-h-h-h-h, yes, Wesgreen. About as bad as the “American International School” where I worked. Though, have to admit, when one of our long-term native teachers actually wrote the final questions and answers on the board for his students, he WAS fired.

      Like

  13. john k says:

    I don’t believe we should be in the “ranking” business of young boys and girls. Pass/Fail should be the only decision. If the student meets the minimum requirements then they pass. Let the Colleges sort out who gets the opportunity to pay tuition to them (they do it anyway). Who among you can say that your assessments are valid to the point that you can put a following mark on a student that may impact their future for good or bad? So they did poorly on your tests or assignments, did they learn the basic standards? So they didn’t use the correct font on their paper, do they deserve a lower grade. I am playing the devils advocate here folks, but there is likely a wide variation in grading across the board. Focusing on grades pulls us away from what kids are supposed to be in school for; learning. Not necessarily getting high marks.

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  14. Mr. C says:

    In Levitt’s “Freakonomics” he describes the incentives for American school teachers to alter test scores under NCLB. No different overseas. At my current school, the more glowing the report card is, the less work I need to do! Our policy on reports: if a teacher ticks “meets” or “exceeds” expectations in any category, no comment is necessary. Any less complimentary mark requires teacher commentary. Pretty much ensures we’re graduating the most well-mannered students anyone’s ever seen.

    Needless to say, I’ll be creating more work for myself than necessary at this term’s end.

    Like

    • Chinuk says:

      And obviously the deciding factor in any decision about how to act should be its impact on our work load? I’m not impressed.

      Like

      • Mr. C says:

        I think you misread me there, Chinuk. Despite the fact that I don’t *need* to do much of anything substantial on my reports, I am choosing to subvert the dominant paradigm. I would never trade in my integrity for a lighter work load. On that note, I find it unfortunate that I work in an environment where mediocre evaluations are not only permissible, they are encouraged.

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  15. Sarah Maurer says:

    I worked as a counselor at three nonprofit schools in Asia, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how committed they were to educational standards. They weren’t really all that rattled by powerful parents in matters of grades, admissions, referral for support services, discipline, etc. Not to say that the VIP treatment was nonexistent (I don’t think that’s true anywhere), but it didn’t really affect my everyday work very often. If a VIP’s child was struggling in any way, parents would be informed and certain expectations laid out, just as they would for any other child. And the admin almost always had our backs in such matters.

    At every assignment, I had teacher friends who were working in for-profit schools. For them, it was a totally different story. Just about everything terrible that’s mentioned above happened to them — and worse.

    I’m not trying to say that all nonprofit schools are heaven, or that all for-profit schools are corrupt. But I do think job seekers need to do double, triple, quadruple diligence when considering for-profit schools.

    Like

  16. Alan says:

    Grade fixing is a fact of life in academia. In the United States,
    grade fixing is a daily occurrence at all levels including colleges.
    We boost grades for trying, curving tests, dumbing down
    state tests, and affirmative action. We do not give trophies for
    winning, we give them for participation. “All children are winners”
    and “You can be “anything” you want to be”. “You can walk
    on water”. Yes, teachers change grades grades to keep
    the lies alive. So I do not know why some teachers are upset
    because they have supported this left wing approach for years.

    Like

    • CJC says:

      Murder, rape and abuse are facts of life too but that does not mean that we should condone them or turn a blind eye to it either! “be the change you want to see in the world” Gandhi

      Like

    • Patricio says:

      Stupid people are also a fact of life but we don´t have to be like them.

      Like

    • Marty says:

      I have written above about grade/mark corruption but I have to say while teaching in Ontario and Alberta it is almost impossible for a student to repeat a course. There are so many safety nets. In various schools there were limits as to the minimum mark I could post. I think students quickly learn how to use the system and under achieve their way to “success”. In these cases I do not think we have served our students by “fixing” their grades.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    I would have no problem changing grades if asked. After all, I am a guest in their country accepting their money to do a job. Besides, the students are not American citizens. I always do what I am asked to do with a smile on my face. If it isn’t done in American, then it is done by their rules. Don’t like it???? Stay home.

    Like

    • Sarah Maurer says:

      Yes, that’s fantastic for YOU, but what about your students, who are trusting you to provide them with an education?

      And are you seriously implying that just because your students aren’t US citizens, it’s okay to commit educational malpractice at their expense?

      **head explodes**

      Like

      • Anonymous says:

        I teach English and when my students leave my classroom they can speak English. Speaking English out in the world is their real test.

        Besides….a lot of the students whose grades are being changed want to attend colleges in the US. GREAT!!!!! When they come to the US to study they will probably be behind everyone else because of their less than honest high school education. Thus they may have to stay in college extra years to graduate. That means more tuition money for the college and more money for the US economy.
        Plus, the less educated they are, the harder it is for them to compete in a world economy. This should give Americans an advantage for jobs and for exploiting the uneducated student’s country. Either way we come out ahead. Remember we are only a guest in their country. We need to make the system work for us not against us.

        Like

        • jo says:

          I also teach English and, having said that, cannot believe that you are for real. As an English Teacher I know that ‘speaking English out in the world’ has little to do with high school English curriculum.

          I find it difficult to understand people who, having spent time living in other countries, can still blindly maintain this type of bizarre allegiance to their own.

          Life is not a football game. We don’t ‘compete’ against other nations and ‘win’.

          Like

          • Anonymous says:

            thanks for your post. I have seen the most “limited” english speakers thrive at Harvard while those who received straight A’s and thrived in an international HS struggle for many reasons. To equate it all to the arbitrary grade granted in HS is absurd.

            Like

        • Susan Phillips says:

          @Anonymous

          .. This should give Americans an advantage for jobs and for exploiting the uneducated student’s country..

          And your lack of personal and educational integrity supports this hegemonic view. Nothing amusing in this – poor scarcasm. A disgraceful attitude.

          Thailand teacher

          Like

    • CJC says:

      I could not disagree more with the Anonymous at 8:41am on October 28!!! Are you saying you would do anything you are told regardless of whether it is right or wrong? It does not matter where in the world you are!! This makes me sick! I cannot believe that you even admitted this. You are spineless and so part of the problem I am almost speechless but could not read this without commenting. It disgusts me! Integrity, honesty and moral behavior should be exhibited where ever you are.

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  18. anonymous says:

    Why are we all beating around the bush. Educational standars are falling around the world and teachers being no different to bankers have brought in the new concepts in teaching such as ,student centred learning’. These so called new ideologies are no more than a con to give grades to students who would fail traditional exams because they are not capable enough. You all know what I mean and yet if any of you were asked in an interview whether you believed in ‘student centred learning’, most of you would say ‘yes’ because you need the job.

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  19. James says:

    I have taught in 4 international schools in Latin America. Although the pay is much lower than what most of you receive in other continents, the academic integrity may be a little higher. I have never been asked to change grades in Colombia, Nicaragua, El Salvador or Mexico.

    That being said I do pay attention to my failing rate. I don’t fail every student if the class is low. That isn’t their fault, it is the fault of the school for allowing other teachers to inflate their grade. I will not change the culture of the school. What I will do is try to raise the standards of the math department as much as possible. Parents are sometimes unhappy, but not excessively so.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    I taught at a school in Bahrain that changed the grades I had given by marking assignments complete when they hadn’t been turned in at all. They just used my gradebook password to go in and change whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. The teachers were forced to give their passwords to the IT people or they held back your paycheck. So in the end I had no control over my gradebook. I would go home at night and in the morning my gradebook would be changed to reflect perfect scores on assignments that had never been turned in or scored by me.

    Like

  21. Anonymous says:

    It’s all about profit. Happy grades mean happy customers, and happy customers keep paying. The situations I know of regarding grade adjustments all involve a school owner telling the principal to “make the teachers do this…”, and ”stop them from giving out bad grades”. I feel sorry for principals/head teachers who are in a position where owners make them push this on their teachers. In a perfect world all principals in such situations would rather quit than condone such adjustments, but lets’ remember that principals have mortgages and kids to put through college too. They also need a reference letter from the owner to get into the next job.

    For me the most tempting situation is when the teacher the year before has graded VERY nicely, giving kids grades much higher than they really deserve. All the parents, of course, love this teacher and talk about how great they are, but then you come along wanting to give them the real score. I have been frowned upon for being honest in this situation, but getting the parents in before reporting time and going through bookwork to explain the challenges did soften the blow, and I seemed to get away with it. I escaped any further repercussions for my honesty.

    Like

  22. Anonymous says:

    Every school I’ve ever been a part of has their own sense of what their “average” grade is, and it’s never been a “C.” I have a great deal of sympathy for international schools. The teacher retention in most international schools is poor compared to non-international schools; as a result, the school struggles each year to get their faculty to grade in a fairly uniform fashion. Imagine being a parent and hearing that one 7th grade teacher’s average grade is a “B+” and another 7th grade teacher’s average grade is a “C+.” Which classroom would you want to put your kid in? Whichever one you choose, you have to agree that somebody should try to get these two teachers on the same page.

    I was at a small international school once where the 7th grade math teacher decided that the entire 7th grade didn’t know enough math. She flunked them ALL: the average grade was an “F.” The admin had tons of respect for all their teachers, and they didn’t change the grades, but the headmaster refused to keep the whole grade back. Two students who flunked English that year were kept back, everybody else passed through… with an “F” on their transcript.

    Teachers tend to complain when individual pressure is put on them, but there’s a larger picture here that I’d say many people who complain are missing.

    Like

  23. Anonymous says:

    I worked with a colleague in Egypt who was told to change her grades in an IB class which compromised her integrity – this allowed the school to have 100% IB graduates.

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      I call BS on this one. IB Diplomas and scores are externally tested and moderated. I student can get all A’s in their course work and still not get the diploma. Three papers (exams) and a minimum of two Internal Assessments for each course, orals for English and second languages, plus TOK and an Extended Essay are necessary to obtain an IB diploma.

      Like

      • Anonymous says:

        I find it interesting that the original poster from Egypt doesn’t respond to his/her outrageous claim. For all of the IB experienced crowd, neither did anyone else for that matter. calling BS is utterly appropriate and a much needed reality check.It is absurd to say that a school could have 100% graduates when everyone knows it doesn’t matter what a teacher grades, only the test results that determine an IB diploma.

        Like

        • CJC says:

          This is why I love IB… it has independent grading. I know several teachers who do this as a side job and get paid good money. they grade the IB tests at the end of each semester and there are 3 separate graders on each of the tests taken so it is pretty hard to “fudge” the grades. If a student gets an IB diploma, it is because they earned it. This is my opinion, of course.

          Like

        • China Teacher says:

          Hey, no need to back you up on that call, you said it all.

          Like

    • Patricio Gonzalez says:

      IB doesn´t work that way. That is not possible.

      Like

  24. China Teacher says:

    In many years of international teaching I have never had a grade changed or felt even the slightest pressure to change a grade. I think this is because I a do a lot of work to make sure, before I take the job, that my employers meet high standards of accreditation, integrity and reputation. This doesn’t seem to be that hard to do because I have always had plenty of choices of such schools at which to work.

    When I read these columns and their litany of bad experiences and incessant complaints, year after year, I can only conclude there is a hidden population of teachers out there (I can’t recall actually meeting any) who are desperate or clueless and can’t avoid falling into the clutches of crap schools again and again.

    Like

    • Robert says:

      It is not a hidden pop. china teacher, it is the majority of schools in the middle east, and large percentage worldwide. Not everyone has the choice to take the best jobs.

      Like

      • Patricio says:

        So, it is our fault!
        China teacher are you saying that you are a privileged elite teacher and the rest of us, because of our mediocrity and unprofessionalism have to accept any crap job. You are being really offensive. You may be a high qualified teacher who works in the best schools, but as a person you are really clueless and your sensibility is not only hidden but totally absent.

        Like

      • China Teacher says:

        I worked in the ME for several years and agree that there are a lot of poor schools there where grades are for sale. Nobody is forced to work at these schools, however. The reason they persist is they seem to have access to endless supply of teachers who are quite willing to work there. I have never been able to understand that.

        Like

        • Anonymous says:

          You are in your mid-20s (or 40s!). You have little life or professional experience outside of education. You have no attachments. You are addicted to living abroad and traveling as if it’s some kind of moral achievement. You are preyed upon at recruiting fair after recruiting fair with seemingly good packages in another exotic country. You’ve never been tethered to reality enough to realize when you are being screwed. I see it in teachers on a disturbingly regular basis. What’s not to understand?

          Like

          • Anonymous says:

            Admin. How is this not a tangental personal response?

            Like

            • Anonymous says:

              actually, I just read more closely and I see that “you” is being used to further explore the point. sorry.

              Like

          • Mr C says:

            Second this point. I’ve met countless talented educators who have worked at excellent schools for their entire career. These are the teachers, be they young or old, green or seasoned, who one unlucky year land in a crap school because they accepted a recruiter’s lies in good faith. Deer in headlights. China teacher, count yourself lucky that your analytical prowress has kept you out of horrible schools. Just don’t get too smug. I’ve been personally amazed at how many seemingly Bona fide schools have turned out to be pits of despair.

            Like

            • Anonymous says:

              My “you” was a universal “you” and not directed toward China Teacher specifically. My point is that the “Deer in the headlights” syndrome seems to be rampant, at least among many of my colleagues over the years. Yes, the recruiters are partially to blame but I’m also just shocked by a certain level of gullibility that runs among educators when their eyes glaze over with visions of palm-lined beaches.

              Whether it’s in the ME or anywhere else, if you find a school whose website looks like something out of the early 90s, where the copy is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, where the hiring contact at the school is giving you half-baked cockamamie information, for the love of God, smarten up, put on your BS detector, exercise the critical thinking skills educators are supposedly known for, and don’t accept a job there.

              Like

    • Sarah Maurer says:

      Yeah, there are a lot of sad stories on these boards. Yes, it’s often possible to avoid dicey schools through due diligence. However …

      The unfortunate truth for international educators is that while overseas teaching jobs are being created each year, the vast majority of them are in for-profit schools. Around the world, English-medium schools have become a big business, and they’re often (though not always) started by people who know next to nothing about student learning (or don’t care).

      Meanwhile, it’s relatively rare these days for a new, high-paying nonprofit school (an SAS or an ISB) to crop up. And competition for jobs at the existing nonprofit schools (which also tend to pay well and offer good benefits) is tighter than in the rest of the industry.

      What’s it mean? Well, most of the teachers working abroad these days are doing so in the (more risky) for-profit sector. And the number of for-profit schools is expected to grow rapidly over the next few decades.

      Which means you’re going to tend to get these sorts of experiences on an international teaching board, just because that’s where more and more people are teaching.

      Like

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree. I have spent 27 years in international education on every continent and NEVER been asked to change a grade. On the other hand, I have seen many horrible teachers asked to “rethink” their pedantic viewpoints and old fashioned grading policies and they have fought tooth and nail for impunity–though they struggled to justify a single grade. Many times they didn’t even have a consistent grading policy or plan. Tell me, why should kids be the victims? and why should this blog only concentrate on the adult “victims” who at the end of the day are in control of their own destinies?

      Like

      • Chinuk says:

        Hmm. Good point.

        Like

      • Allen says:

        I enjoyed your ridicule of those that disagree with your
        “progressive” view. Authority and ridicule are the basic
        strategies to try to defeat one’s opposition in a debate.
        Let’s give everyone a trophy because they tried so “hard”.

        Like

  25. Wwell over it!! says:

    I was asked by the parent of a Yr. 1 teacher in my home country to change a ‘reading’ level on the child’s end of year report!!! I was asked to change a report grading for a Yr. 2 child at an International School in Japan or else that child would not get into boarding school in two years time, in England. I refused to change the report, the child got into the boarding school. So who knows!!!
    Funny, nobody has ever asked me what my grade level was for Maths/Science/Reading in Yr. 1. Neither has anyone ever asked for my first year Uni grade marks!!!!

    Like

  26. namename says:

    The vice principal of ACS international (Singapore) Mrs. Kathleen Manley asked me directly to change the grades of a student. I didn’t do it but I am suffering the consequences and they will not renew my contract! That’s bad…I was not hired with the support of an educational consultant and I have no rights to complain according to the rules of Singapore and this particular school.

    Like

  27. Anonymous says:

    There is also another reality – the school at the receiving end of a student whose grades were inflated at another school. We have had students come to us from some schools with amazing report cards (straight A’s, all A’s and a few B’s) only to find that these students are years behind their peers at our site and have significant learning disabilities. Sometimes the parents are shocked, as they believed the inflated grades were actually representative of the work their students were doing.

    We have seen students of high ranking embassy officials and wealthy parents with inflated grades, and we have also seen students whose grades were either inflated, or the school had very low standards, which could also be the case.

    Either way, it hurts everyone involved.

    Like

    • International Teacher says:

      I can vouch for that. Every Parent/Teacher conference (after review of report cards) parents tell me that their child was the best in the class, got all A’s and they can’t understand why they aren’t getting straight A’s in my class. Funny thing is when I get a group of parents telling me the same thing when they were all in the same class the previous year. How can every student be the best in the same class. Or the parent that sends in previous years awards to try and prove it. The awards are usually for behavior, attendance, helping hands, or handwriting.

      My latest is a student coming from the states whose mother is not happy with the schools here. American schools are much better and foster learning. Her son was held back a year in the states for a poor attendance record. He has troubles reading and writing. Pretty much indifferent to school altogether. His lack of finished classwork, homework, and projects are hindering his grades along with a poor attendance record. Yet his report card from the previous year indicates that he is a good student, responsible, and eager to learn. His grades were A’s and B’s but all I can honestly give him are C’s and D’s.

      Like

  28. International Teacher says:

    @Wondering…
    As a teacher of more than 2 decades, I disagree. A question was put forth and answered. Griping, yes we all do it to an extent in any occupation. Why do we keep teaching? For some of us it is in our blood, there is that hope that we are changing some students for the better.

    As for altering grades in International Schools, it happens all the time even if you personally are not aware of it. International schools are a business and someone is living off of that business. In turn that obviously means that the customers must be happy or at least a percentage of them. If you are not asked personally to change a grade, someone else will in another subject to level out the final grade. Yes, some schools do it over the summer when watchful eyes are not around.

    Teachers themselves used to pass out report cards to the students/parents and would be asked about grades on the spot. This practice is fading. Picking up report cards long after the teachers are gone is becoming the norm. Parents paying for grades, having connections, threatening to verbally damage the schools reputation and such goes on all the time. What goes on behind closed doors is only for the fly on the wall to know.

    That final grade is not my concern. I would never alter a grade. If it is altered then it is done by the admin. My concern is the time a students spends with me in class. As long as I am doing my job to the best of my ability and the student(s) learn from me, then I am happy. Don’t get me wrong, altering grades is a serious offense but I also know there is nothing I can do about a report card that is not passed directly from my hands to the students/parents.

    Like

  29. Anonymous says:

    This is definitely a problem, that can be addressed only by a strong leadership from the top. However I have faced a different problem and that is of teachers writing the IAs for the students and sending those forward to IB for grading! In spite of this being brought to the notice of the IB Co-ordinator it was sidelined and later when the results came these were touted to be the “Good” results, which of course were never the students’ work in the same place.

    Like

  30. Don McMahon says:

    As an experienced college counselor and teacher, I know that grade inflation and outright alterations happens. The Universities, especially in North America, know that as well and rank International Schools who regularly seem to be presenting inflated transcripts.
    That said, I also know that higher education is a business as well as a vocation so many if not most universities will accept the inflated grades, provided they aren’t too spurious, provided the student can pay his or her way over the 4-5 years it will take for them to get a degree. The junior colleges are particularly tolerant as their very survival demands accepting students who couldn’t get into the 4 year schools because of poor grades or a combination of other factors.
    In Kuwait, I was offered a very generous bribe to alter one grade for a student who needed to pass that particular course to graduate. When I told the principal of this offer, we went to see the DG and he said to take the bribe as the student was from a family with lots of ¨wasta¨ and would get the grade changed anyway by the owner. That is what happened, after the student was given 5 different opportunities to pass tests and failed them all. I informed the owner, the DG and my principal that I would refuse to alter his grade for any reason other than his succeeding in a supplemental test so they did the dirty deed over the summer.

    Like

  31. groenlandia says:

    I’m not looking forward to the first quarter report cards. Students who have been at our school and understand both the academic expectations and the medium of instruction are all doing fine for the most part, but the students who were admitted with below grade level English skills and/or came from our host country’s public school system are doing poorly. I know that I will have to adjust their grades to keep their parents, AKA school customers, happy and off of my back.

    Like

    • Chinuk says:

      Sorry, but this sounds unethical and unprofessional to me. Is this in the best interest of your students, or is it just to make your life easier?

      Like

    • CJC says:

      This sounds like a total sell out! Shameful, absolutely shameful! I have never been pressured to change grades but I monitor grades closely during the entire quarter and if a grade starts to slip, I send home warning notices at the half way point and I make a plan with each student to get grades up… if they opt out of that plan or do not comply with the agreed upon fix… I have covered myself. GRADES DO NOT GET CHANGED after the fact. I have had no trouble with this approach because I have done my part in attempting to get my students to take responsibility. End of Text!

      Like

      • Patricio says:

        That is the way of doing it in the best interest of the student, we help them, we support them, but we dont lie to them. Give opportunities but don´t change grades.

        Like

    • Anthony says:

      Well, CEOs, politicians, Wall Street, and sports stars cheat. Why put yourself on the chopping block just for your precious ethical code. Some things just aren’t worth it. Teach as hard as you can, but at the end of the day do what the boss wants. They will just replace you with someone else. Just my two cents.

      Like

      • Patricio says:

        It is not someone´s ethical code. Ethics and moral make us different from criminals and crooks. You shouldn´t be a teacher If “do what the boss wants ” is your attitude. That is what the nazis said, ” I was following orders, otherwise, they would have shot me too”.
        There were and are people who not only risk their jobs but even their own lives by doing what is right and decent.
        Stauffenberg, the Scholl brothers, Wallenberg, Schindler, these are names I bet you haven´t ever heard about.
        Being an example for your students is well worth it because you are educating the future decent people or cheaters.

        Like

        • Anthony says:

          “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

          Haha classic- didn’t take very long this time. Anyway, I know about Schindler, but not the other guys. Hey look, if you wanna go and make it hard on yourself then go ahead. It’s not genocide, it’s grade manipulation. There are times to take a stand, and this ain’t one of them. I could see if we had a union to back us up. But, you expect me, to put my job on the line, in a foreign country, where I’m away from my network of friends and family? No thanks.

          Like

  32. isumc10 says:

    Right, this is not just an international school problem, when schools in the States have parents showing up with lawyers over bad grades, and principals pressure teachers to pass sports stars. Having said that, I worked at a bad school in Egypt where a student once came in waving two different report cards, one with a 1.3 GPA, another with a 3.2. No pressure on teachers–just bribed the school manager.

    I’ve never had any pressure at any other international school I’ve worked at.

    Like

  33. Semi-retired says:

    I think teachers, international and domestic, are well advised to check pupil records in October before finalizing grades. It’s likely a good idea to ensure that the October grades are not too different from the June Grades of the previous year. Use comments to clearly explain drops in standing or to prepare for possible drops to come. Take time to talk to students who face drops in standing; have a discussion. In some cultures, and some family situations, low marks cast shame on the family and reactions to low marks can be unexpectedly strong. Occasionally, this will not be expressed directly as dis-satisfaction with the marks but parents will instead criticize the teacher’s performance. If you, as a teacher, do all this and perhaps more, administration should back you up. If not, make exit plans. It is not only unethical to give students inflated marks; you might also be paving the way for those students to suffer through disastrous post-secondary experiences. There are many such stories out there in the university world. Not surprisingly, it’s the success stories the universities choose to publicize, not the failures.

    Like

    • Chinuk says:

      While I agree with much of what’s been written, I don’t agree that grades I give a student in October should be guaged against grades received from another teacher in another course in June. In my experience, grades vary widely from teacher to teacher and I have had the experience of kids coming into my freshman class having “always got A’s”, yet they cannot read or write at grade level!

      Like

  34. Anonymous says:

    Grade fixing is endemic and widely pervasive among international schools. Public schools receive higher scrutiny, so backlashes against grade fixing or test score adjustments in New York or other places is just the tip of the iceburg.

    Like

  35. nora says:

    I was asked to change grades so the student could still play football in Paris Texas. An alternative school in Houston ISD gave better grades because they were competing with charter schools at the time and wanted to make the school look better than it was.
    A private school in Brazil and here in Mexico will ask the student to pay for two weeks of “summer school” and the student can make up and pass a whole year of a subject. And yes, some of these students go into American universities with highly inflated grades but I think it catches up with them at that point and they can no longer hide behind thier lack of education.
    Yes, I have seen this practice at both public and private schools.

    Like

  36. Coke Smith says:

    Nope never happened in Int’l schools. But it happened on a number of instances back in the states when I was in the public schools…

    Like

    • anonymous says:

      I would second that. No Child Left Behind put pressure on teachers far more than any of the reputable schools overseas. If anything, I was always pressured to grade harder, on an antiquated bell curve, in order to prove the school was an elite one.

      Like

      • omanio says:

        I’d have to agree. At an “American International” high school in Sharjah, we were asked to change grades of students regularly, especially those applying to university who wanted or needed a student grant to do so. Often, these students were already very good, but if the average wasn’t high enough in the parents’ estimation, they were changed. You either accepted that or you quit–or weren’t asked back the next year if you made trouble.

        But, back in Canada, I keep hearing high school teachers and principals saying that parents arrive with their lawyer to complain if their son or daughter hasn’t received a high enough grade or average, especially in grade 12. So, either new Canadians have influenced the way things are done here now, or it has always been done or it was done, but perhaps not so often. What with the increased competition for students who apply to college or university these days, this seems to be quite a common practice now.

        Like

  37. patricio gonzalez says:

    As the homeroom teacher I was asked to alter the conduct and behavior grade of the son of one member of the school board. The kid was good, but he lacked social skills and did not deserve a high mark. I refused, so the administration altered the grade. The next term, I gave him the highest mark, but I did the same with all the other 15 students in the class. I was not given the homeroom teacher position the following 3 years until the admin was changed.

    Like

    • Keith Miller says:

      Patricia Ayala, principal of the American School of Guayaquil, regularly asks teachers to change grades upwards. Most of the teachers comply out of fear of reprisals.

      Like

      • Anonymous says:

        Do you really have to name names on a public forum? Shame on you. This says far more to me about your unprofessionalism then her perceived ones. I don’t recall her naming you as a “difficult teacher” which of course in her mind you might be? Doesn’t it all come down to perspective and not persecution?

        Like

        • David Owen says:

          Attacking someone else on an public forum whilst remaining anonymous seems cowardly. At least Kieth used a name. Whether it is his true name is another matter!

          Like

          • Robert says:

            It is not attacking someone if it is true. It is simply telling the truth…something that most directors out there are too cowardly to do in the first place. I wish there were more folks like Keith out there. Of the many directors I have met , it is clear, when push comes to shove, the director will sell the teacher down the river.

            Like

            • Seattle Traveler says:

              I taught at the “American School” of Guayaquil. Keith Miller was the director. Another American teacher there told me he had a high school kid that failed the final exam. Patricia told him to give the student the test a second time. After 4 attempts the boy continued to fail the exact same test. Patricia told the teacher the boy will continue to take the test until he passes. After attempt 6 the boy continued to fail the test. The teacher was then pressured to put the answers on the board. The kid passed.

              Keith was the only saving grace. He buffered us foreign hires from the Ecuadorian admin, eager to please parents at any cost. Thanks Keith having the courage to warn teachers.

              Like

          • Sarah Maurer says:

            Agreed. While I think we all have to be savvy forum users (and hence realize that it’s an easy place for anonymous reprisals and flaming), these blogs and forums are one of the few places where teachers can get the word out about problem schools and admins. And I certainly understand why teachers making such statements usually prefer to be anonymous.

            Once you get familiar with online behavior and forum social conventions, it’s honestly not that hard to tell reasoned arguments and sincere warnings apart from trolls who just want to grind an ax.

            Like

        • Anonymous says:

          Why are you so overwhelmed, are you her spouse? A family member? this is Forum where these things should be known with Names and last names. Keith did the right thing doing so, cause we could all be victims of this grade altering system. Obe thing is being unprofessional and another is to keep the truth to yourself while harming other. The truth always comes first! Thank you Keith!

          Like

          • Anonymous says:

            I have never heard of this person, but I think the question was more about whether you personally have been pressured to name the school where it happened. “The truth always comes first.” I have found over the years that there are usually many sides to the truth and they are not often explored fully on ISR. As for remaining anonymous? Why would I want my name exposed on a site where people regularly get personal. Is it really about telling the truth? or it is that some teachers’ truths are worth more than others?

            Like

        • Anonymous says:

          Easy there Patricia. The purpose of this is to expose schools and administrators. I think people would like to know names.

          Like

        • Marc Koster says:

          If a principal ‘regularly’ asks teachers to change grades upwards THAT is unprofessionalism (sic)! May ALL such cheats, bullies and scoundrels be named and shamed right out of the profession.

          Like

        • Anonymous says:

          This is probably from an administrator.It is funny but many principals are very unprofessional and do things out of spite and teachers have no reprisal. Now we do.

          Like

        • CJC says:

          Naming names is the whole point of this forum… it is here so we can avoid people and places like the one that was named. No one has the right to tell the classroom teacher what grades to give a student. I do not care if they own the school, are the head of the board or a wealthy parent. We all have to stand up to this kind of thing or the value of a report card will be zero.
          The above post sounds like it is coming from someone who condones grade fixing and clearly has no clue about what we are doing on this website. Sorry to see that there are perspectives like this out there… it is part of the problem of society’s morals and values that are missing today. It is time for us all to report any injustices that are seen so that we can regain integrity in all areas of our lives.

          Like

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