A Grading Dilemma: Answering Kevin C.

Is there grade inflation?



Imagine that you teach Advanced Placement History at Monticello High School in suburbia, USA. It is your third year on the faculty.


Kevin C. is a senior in your class, and he is a bright, strong and healthy young man. But as a student, he has poor habits. His concentration is weak, he doesn’t take notes in class and is usually unprepared.


He missed your class six times in the first nine weeks. 


His contribution to class normally consists of smirking at classmates. His mother is a close friend of several members of the school board. You wish he were a better student. As you close out your grade book for the quarter, Kevin’s grade is 81, which you regard as generous already. Your grades are due to the central office early next week.


It is 7:16 am on Friday. You are working at your desk before first bell. Kevin opens your classroom door, approaches you and says this:



Ms. Evans, can I talk to you? It’s about my grade. I really like your class, but sometimes I don’t understand the material. History is really hard for me. I try to do the reading when I can but I don’t understand a lot of it. Now that football season is almost over, I think I’ll be able to do better on the tests and essays next quarter.


I’m applying Early Action to college and I need at least an 85 in all my classes to qualify. This one is the only class that is keeping me off. Is there any way that I can do some extra work or write another paper over this weekend so that I can boost my average? I really want to get into this program. I swear I will work on it all weekend. My mom wants you to call her. Here’s her cell phone number. The deadline is for my application is next Tuesday. Can I do it?


Do you need help for an upcoming substitute teacher day? We have the answer: our US Constitution bingo game–a free download for history and law teachers.


How will you answer Kevin and his mom? Will you allow him to complete an “extra credit” research paper so as to hit the 85 that is needed for his Early Action application?


You didn’t learn about this dilemma in your training to be a teacher. And remember, there is no real Kevin C. This situation is a composite of experiences.


Grade inflation is a real problem in our country


At the History Doctor we believe in civic discourse about important issues. We invite readers, whatever your job, to weigh in: Should the teacher permit Kevin the extra credit assignment so as to boost his grade for college?


What if he has had valid reasons for his absences? What kind of precedent does this set? Does every uncommitted student get a do-over? And if this student is not a middle class kid, but the first generation to go to college? And his name is not Kevin, but José?


What is fair and what is right?


What is in Kevin’s best interest? Monticello High School’s? America’s?


Soon I’ll talk more about what is grade inflation and how to avoid it. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for our mailing list.