Certain teachers grade harder: truth or excuse?


Ellie Lan

TRYHARD: Students question the perceived difficulty in some of their courses.

Olivia Cai, Staff Writer

The start of a new semester signals a ritual that is all too common for high school students undergoing a schedule change, from praying for that one easy teacher to dreading harder test graders and what they may mean for their second semester grades. Northwood is no exception—swapping teachers after five months of school, students with new schedules may hear rumors of  different grading standards across teachers from the same course. 


Despite having an undoubtedly exceptional teaching staff, some Northwood teachers are labeled across campus as being more demanding than others when it comes to quality of work. In an already high stress academic environment, students erroneously feel that they might have a harder time earning a high grade than their peers with other teachers. However, teacher practices to normalize and reflect on assessments during course level meetings disprove these worries. 


“We do sit and norm papers together to make sure everybody has a similar experience,” English teacher Sara Katlen said. “We check class averages and generally there is never more than tenths of a percentage point of difference across teachers.” 


Since this is the case, why do concerns about different levels of rigor required from certain teachers persist? Maybe students are looking to externalize fault for poor grades, scapegoating negative generalizations regarding teachers with strict personas to explain poor assessment scores, rather than engage in introspection. 


Understanding that stricter teachers do not necessarily grade harder is an important first step to deconstructing the myth of the harder grading teacher. It is unrealistic to expect every teacher to teach the same lessons word for word. Variety in methods to deliver content allow teachers to experiment with more effective teaching methods. Students should work to not form hasty generalizations about a teacher due to their teaching style.


But teachers could also provide transparency around practices to normalize grading and expectations. Providing course level averages to students who request them would allow students to understand that teachers actually have similar averages and remove the misunderstanding surrounding different standards. 


Additionally, students should seek out opportunities such as extra credit to ensure that they have taken advantage of every resource to improve a grade available. 


Students shouldn’t stress about misperceptions of differing expectations from teachers when academic pressure is already high. Through transparency and good faith, students and teachers can work together to end the myth of the harder grading teacher.