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My son is nine years old and in the fourth grade. He took a Social Studies test that entailed
labeling all 50 states with correct spelling. He got everything correct except for the
spelling of Kentucky (he added an "e" before the "y"). He had earned a 99%. He wanted the
100% so badly (which he told me later) that he erased the "e" and gave it back to the
teacher stating he had spelled it correctly. The teacher called me and told me what had
happened. In a nutshell, my son had cheated. When I asked him about it after school, he
admitted to it with lots of tears. He went to the teacher the next day who told him that he
should think of some consequences by third recess. At this recess, he met with her again,
and she did not ask him for his ideas but rather told him that he would be given a 59%
which is an E. This grade would drop his A to a C. She would offer him some extra credit
to earn some points back. My husband and I went to speak with her to tell her that we felt
this was a consequence that would not teach my son anything and that grades are a
reflection of what they know and shouldn't be used in this way. We also said that grades
are obviously such a huge focus that the consequence should not be grade-centered which
just adds to the problem. She said she felt that he was motivated to cheat by the grade
and that a consequence of reducing the grade would "get him where it hurts." She said the
district policy is a zero, but because he has never been in trouble, she spoke with the
principal and they agreed to give him 59% rather than a zero. Could you give me some
feedback re: this situation? What information can I be armed with as I enter parent-teacher
conferences to discuss this? Thanks.



First of all I am struck by the trivial nature of the task. Second, I think you need to discuss
with your son why getting 100% was so important to him when it is really not; as you said
what is really important is what he knows and can do and that he knows what he can do
and what he needs to do to improve. Third, the cheating - this is a behavioral issue and
the consequences should be behavioial not academic - loss of privileges or 'punishment'
are appropriate not grade reduction - and zeros should NEVER be used as they are
mathematically and ethically unacceptable. Extra credit is also unacceptable Also this
should be used in an educative way to help your son and others to understand why
academic dishonesty is unacceptable. If you want further information on zeros google
Guskey -"Zero Alternatives, Reeves - "The Case against the Zero" and Wormeli - "Fair Isn't




This is an academic consequesnce for a discipline issue. Using grade penalties as a
disciplinary action is not "legal" and has been ruled on in the courts. See Katzman v.
Cumberland Valley.

The Grade Doctor's


Thanks for the information.