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Child Flunked Test for Using Pen

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Hello. My son is an excellent student. He works hard and gets straight As. Recently, with no warning, his teacher gave him a zero on a math test because he used a pen. I talked to her. She says she will average his zero with a new test she gives him, which means 50 maybe. This can bring him down for his entire year.

She told me it's OK, he can survive with a B. What do you think? The entire point of the test is lost. He knew the material, and would have received a 103; instead he received zero. This was his first mistake in class. Is this extreme?

A: I am both surprised and shocked that any educator would give a student a zero/F on a test because he used a pen on a test rather than a pencil.

I imagine this teacher seeks to make an example of him, thereby reinforcing her strict rule about "pencil only" when taking her tests. That said, I couldn't accept any rationale for this educator's behavior. The intent of her tests is, as you state, to see if her students understand the material. You imply that your son's test score based on his number of correct answers was 100 percent or higher, indicating that he has a superior command of the test's subject matter.

Regardless of the teacher suggesting that he will still probably come out with an honors grade, he still should not receive this zero for this test grade. If you believe that you have gotten as far as you can using logic and reason with this teacher, I would suggest you take this issue to the principal of the school. I would hope that this principal would see the error in the teacher's judgment and focus instead on your son's obvious knowledge of the subject matter.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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