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Who has the final authority over grades?

Q: I teach high school. I am getting tired of students and their parents questioning grades. I am happy to review assignments and student work, and can be convinced to change a grade after going over the student's work. But more recently I have been asked to give alternative assignments to students who did poorly, or did not even complete the original assignment. As a teacher shouldn't I have final authority over assignments and grades?

A: Maybe you should, but the law may not protect the teacher's authority. Grading students is a teaching duty that you must carry out in accordance with policy set by your local school board. However, the grades don't belong to you. School officials can change grades or require you to do so. For example, an Ohio teacher and local Association sued the school board for allowing a student the teacher failed to complete an alternative assignment and pass the course. The Court of Appeals in Ohio ruled that neither the teacher nor the local Association had standing to sue. The Court said the teacher "has not demonstrated that he has suffered any concrete injury in fact as a result of the board's action." Vermilion Teachers' Association v. Vermilion Local School District Board of Education , 98 Ohio App. 3d 525, 529, (Court of Appeals Ohio 1994) appeal denied 71 Ohio St.3d 1502 (1995).

You and your local Association can let the school board know this is an issue. Call for a committee, with teacher members, to review grading policy and establish teacher rights in grade disputes. Maybe the school board will agree with you that grade disputes are getting out of hand and strengthen teacher authority.

In the meantime, be sure to follow school board policy on assignments and grades. Keep good records. Ask your local UniServ Director for advice and representation if you face questions about the work you assign or grades you award. If necessary, document your compliance with direction to change a grade or give an alternative assignment.


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