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Altered grades: A grey zone in the ethics of classroom assessment

Robin D. Tierney

Students’ grades are altered for a variety of reasons in educational systems worldwide. While there has been considerable research on teachers’ grading practices, very little is known about the circumstances and reasons for grade alteration. This article closely examines eight instances where experienced teachers altered or were asked to alter students’ grades in secondary schools in Ontario, Canada. Essentially, the teachers’ responses were based on: a) the need for compassion; b) the desire to provide students with opportunity; and c) the intent to teach life lessons. This work highlights the moral complexity of classroom assessment, and it aims to provoke further discussion on the ethics of grade alteration.

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