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What Would You Do?

By law, cases under investigation are confidential. For the education of members, the following accounts, based on facts from real cases, raise important questions about teacher conduct, such as what is appropriate and what is not. Details have been altered to respect confidentiality.

Our investigation case studies series, What would you do?, is a popular educational resource for Ontario Certified Teachers. The cases could help to avoid potential risks on the job. The latest case study is as follows:

A few years ago, the College received a letter of notification from a school board regarding Steve, an occasional teacher who was teaching math in a high school. It was alleged that Steve fabricated students’ final marks on report cards. Concerns related to Steve’s marking included the following:

  • Information entered in MarkBook, an assessment software, did not match information Steve entered in the report cards. For example, the final class average according to MarkBook should have been 70 per cent. However, it was 88 per cent in the report cards.
  • At mid-term, the class average was 70. It was raised to 90 in the final term.
  • More than 20 students who had consistently low marks received a final grade of 90, which was unusually high for a challenging math class.

Steve’s principal had a number of concerns including the fact that Steve was giving students unusually high marks based on class participation and subjective observations. For example, he was rewarding students with high marks because they “worked really hard.’’

When the principal asked him to justify his marking, Steve could not provide any supporting evidence such as notes or records. He indicated that his notes were probably lost.

Steve denied fabricating marks. In his defence, he said he was hired to teach a demanding math class and tried to do his best in a “challenging and stressful situation.”

He stated that he allowed students to gain additional marks by participating in class and demonstrating skills and comprehension.

Steve further explained that he orally assessed student performance and incorporated it into his final grade. He also acknowledged that he should have approached grading differently and that he should have kept detailed records of his oral assessment of students.

Steve had never been previously disciplined by his employer, and no discrepancies were ever found in his other classes.

If you were a member of the Investigation Committee panel, what would you have issued to this teacher to express your concern:

  • an admonishment in person (most severe)
  • a written admonishment
  • a written caution
  • written advice
  • a written reminder
  • take no action (least severe)

The Outcome

The Investigation Committee panel reviewed Steve’s explanation in detail and acknowledged the challenging math class. However, the panel also noted that Steve issued final marks that he was not able to substantiate and therefore decided that a written caution was appropriate.

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