success or failureIn each subject in the MYP students gain a final grade dependent on their final criterion levels total (which is the sum of the allocated level in each of the criteria).  This value is matched against a set of grade boundaries to identify a final grade from 1 to 7.   Each of these grades has a related descriptor such as:

  • Grade 1 – Minimal achievement in terms of the objectives
  • Grade 7 – A consistent and thorough understanding of the required knowledge and skills, and the ability to apply them almost faultlessly in a wide variety of situations.  Consistent evidence of analysis, synthesis and evaluation is shown where appropriate.  The student consistently demonstrates originality and insight and always produces work of high quality.


At no point in the Holy Grail of the MYP – from principles into practice document, is failure mentioned.  Note that in the coordinators handbook schools can fail but seemingly students can.  Now, by the way, I am fine all with this.  I consider everyone on their own personal continuum of understanding, and appreciate that the MYP reflects this.


However, many schools’ (all the ones I have taught in at least) still feel that they still need to identify what it means to fail (although some schools may disguise this as a cause for concern).  In later years when these MYP grades are incorporated onto a university friendly transcript which certainly clearly identifies what it means to fail.   This is where the inconsistency comes in at my present school a grade 2 is considered a fail yet at my previous school failure was considered to be a level 3.


Something similar happens at the other end of the academic achievement spectrum as reflected by being placed on the honor roll.  Last school MYP success meant getting a 52 or higher and presently a 44 gets the same accolade.


If I just based my school evaluation on final student achievement grades my last school would be higher up the ladder.  Now I moved to this school partly because I was so excited by the growth potential and the ambition to move higher up the academic achievement ladder.   Yet this all does lead me to be asking some questions:

  • Should the standards a school set reflect the school or the aspirations of the school?
  • Would raising the standards help nudge the students in an upward achievement direction due to increased expectation or bring about an acceptance of failure?

Any thoughts on this topic would be greatly welcomed.