As the school year comes to an end there is always an uphill battle with a number of students to make sure they are passing their classes. As a teacher who has instructed mostly 9th graders over the last few years, it has been easier for me because the stakes have been a bit lower. If a student fails Algebra 1, they still have three more years to make up those credits and graduate.
But this year I have a course that involves seniors, adding its own issues for the past 10 months and currently offering plenty of challenges. As I finish preparing them for their final presentations and projects, what qualifies as a passing grade? For students who have 17 unexcused absences for the second semester, should I even bother giving them a chance? Does it depend on recent trends (were those absences in February and since March they have been here every day)? What if they were spread out and the student completely understands the outcome of his/her actions?
These are major questions we all deal with as teachers and sometimes butt heads with parents and administrators about the outcomes. If a student who has been a behavioral deficit to the class and recognizes that s/he was not putting forth the best possible version of themselves for the entire semester, maybe the deserving thing is the fail and learn a lesson about effort? Or, will that cause the student to spiral downwards and never life themselves back up to graduate high school?
On the other side of this are the students who are upcoming seniors - if they hear the story of these students who were not in class and eventually passed anyway, what does that tell them? Does it encourage a culture of lax focus in the school for years to come?
I am pained by these questions right now because I have to deal with them and make decisions in the next two weeks. I hope others can empathize and that these questions are some you are thinking of for your students as well. It is not easy to make them, but whatever we decide will be right because we have dug deep and are attempting to make sense of a crazy situation.