Teacher Appalled That She's Required To Give A 50% On Assignments Not Turned In — ‘This Isn't Preparing Kids For The Real World’

Sometimes, teaching kids that they can fail is a good lesson.

Student slacking in class and not doing assignments Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock

Working as educators puts people in a unique position to guide students’ lives. Having an adult who believes in your potential can be life-altering. We all remember that one teacher who shaped the route our futures took, who assigned that one book or project that made us feel truly seen. 

Yet working in schools can be a thankless profession — American teachers are underpaid, overworked, and all too often tasked with putting their literal lives on the line, as school shootings seem to have become an accepted norm.


One teacher described a less dangerous but still urgent threat to students’ futures, one that she believes does kids an incredible disservice.

The teacher was appalled that she was required to give students a 50% grade on assignments they hadn’t turned in.

High school English teacher Alexa Borota sat at her desk, venting about how frustrating it is that she’s expected to give students a grade higher than a zero when they don’t do their work.

“I’m grading right now and I’m appalled," she said, "and I know I’m not the only one."

@teachingwithalexa This happens constantly & I do not feel it is preparing students for the real world. I'm not upset with kids; I'm apalled at the "solution" #teacher #teacherlife #teachersoftiktok #lifeofateacher #teachervlogger #highschoolteacher #englishteacher ♬ original sound - Alexa Borota

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“I hope parents are hearing this,” she continued, noting that parents might be the only ones who could change what she sees as a hugely damaging policy.

“Like so many other school districts, I’m not allowed to give anything below a 50%,” Borota explained. “You could just not come to school, nothing. I gotta give you a 50%.”

Borota expressed the depths of her discontent, offering up an experience she had with a student as an example of how big an issue the grading policy has become.

“I had a student who was just in here to inquire about his grade two days before grades are due; that’s beside the point,” she said. 

“He has been absent for days, extremely late every single day,” she continued. “The bigger deal here is that in the 12 assignments that we went through, he’s missing 7 of them. I had to give him 50s for it, for doing absolutely nothing.”


She described the details of the assignments her student missed, noting they were projects, quizzes, tests, and major writing assignments that he simply chose not to complete. 

Student slacking in class, not doing assignments Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock

“Everybody else is here working, getting their work done; I still have to give him a 50,” she said.


Borota is of the belief that this grading policy hurts both the students who do their work and the students who don’t.

By awarding 50s for incomplete work, the message students receive from teachers is that they don’t have to try.

Borota shared how this particular student went about his work, explaining that he completed “bare minimum participatory assignments” and was given a grade of 66. 

“I am almost nearly certain that he is leaving my class having learned next to nothing because these assignments that he actually did, they were nothing in the grand scheme of what students are supposed to learn and what they were supposed to submit,” Borota said.

“He’s just one student, but when you think about them as a whole, this is who we are sending off to college. This is who we are sending into the workforce,” she added.


The devoted teacher appeared palpably disheartened, sharing her concern for future generations. In the caption to her post, Borota wrote, “This happens constantly, and I do not feel it is preparing students for the real world.”

“I’m not upset with kids” who aren’t completing their work, she explained. “I’m appalled by the ‘solution.’”

In a follow-up post, Borota clarified her perspective, saying her issue was with the school districts and policies, not her students. 

She explained that she wasn’t addressing students who “are attempting their work. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re attempting your work, you shouldn’t fail.”


She then addressed the commenters who framed her argument against the grading policy as her wanting to see students fail.

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Borota doesn’t equate giving zeros to students as wanting them to fail; rather, she sees a failing grade as something that holds students accountable.

We want to set our students up for success,” she said. “How are we doing that, by year after year allowing them to pass for doing nothing?”


“When the 50% grading policy first started, I was a middle school teacher, and I didn’t really have an opinion. I just wanted to experience it. I knew that there were a lot of negative effects of students having missed so much school time,” she explained. “But I noticed almost immediately that students were taking their work less seriously because of these 50s.” 

“I also noticed that parents had no idea just how poorly their kids were doing because they would see these 50s and confuse that with, ‘Oh, you’re trying, but you’re failing.’”

If students know that they don’t actually have to try, they’re most likely not going to. As Borota explained, “Students are becoming strategic. They know what they can get away with. The new bare minimum, it’s practically nothing.”

She noted that she understands that some educators like the 50% grading policy because it helps students struggling with mental health issues, special education, and issues at home. However, she stressed that this policy is not the answer. 


“We are trained to handle situations like that,” she said, referring to emotional and behavioral conflicts in classrooms. 

The issue Borota has with the 50% grading policy isn’t that it allows for flexibility when students are struggling but that it excuses their struggles without teaching them any necessary habits to build their resiliency.

@teachingwithalexa I earned my F because I didn't make it a priority. I was not pushed along with free points, therefore, I learned more about Alegrebra AND my potential. #teachersoftiktok #highschool #teachertok #highschoolenglishteacher #highschoollife #teacherstories #elateacher #englishteacher #teachervlogger #youtuber ♬ original sound - Alexa Borota

“We all have problems, and we will continue to have problems for the rest of our lives,” she said. “But for the rest of our lives, are we gonna get free days off? Are we gonna get paid for doing absolutely nothing?”


Borata has a valid point: The corporate world doesn’t care if you’re feeling a little low or don’t feel like doing your work. It will move on without you, whether you like it or not. As these kids grow into adulthood, they’re going to feel as though their first 18 years of life didn’t prepare them for how the world really works.

“I just want you to consider for a moment what this is going to mean for society,” Borota continued, citing that college professors are equally as upset with incoming students’ academic performances. 

“It just seems like every year, it is more of an uphill battle,” she concluded, noting that giving students underserved 50s doesn’t help them pass state testing, a system that has “not gotten any easier.”


Developmental psychologist Dr. Aliza Pressman revealed that teaching kids self-efficacy is the most valuable skill to set them up for success in all realms of life.

Self-efficacy can be defined as the belief in one’s ability to achieve something, even when that something is difficult.

Giving kids 50% for not doing schoolwork models the opposite of self-efficacy. It tells them that they don’t have to try, that they can coast along without expending any effort and everything will be just fine.


While everyone would benefit from the world being a more compassionate and empathic place, one where emotional nuance was always taken into account, that isn’t our actual lived experience. To believe that they can do hard things, sometimes, kids need to fail. They need to fall down to learn that they can get back up, dust themselves off, and be stronger for it. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.