Redefining Failure in Our Schools

Published On: July 11th, 2016·By ·

Is Your School Redefining Failure?

Educational thought leaders are encouraging schools and teachers to start redefining failure in the classroom. This conversation is taking place everywhere, including Twitter. I watch social media closely and it's my job to share some of the hot topics on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other outlets that teachers, principals, students, and parents are contributing.

Currently, the education system defines failure as 50 percent or less (or a grand majority of grading systems give students an “F” or failing grade for 50 percent or below). At 50 percent or lower, the student fails the task, and they and the rest of the class moves onto the  next one. Receiving a failing grade is the end of the line in education. This is not the case in the real world.

Dan McCabe argues that, in the real world, failing to complete a task does not mean the end of that task. If an employee fails to complete a task or does not perform up to company standards, they have to repeat the task. This is especially expected and forgiven when the employee is learning the task for the first time, as is usually the case in the classroom. Failure isn't the end. It's only one step in the process. He, and others, believe that school should work the same way because it would keep students from avoiding risks to avoid failure and help them from getting discouraged too quickly. So, in order to encourage students to learn more effectively, schools should start redefining failure.

redefining failure

Looking for more information about current educational debates? Some educational thought leaders are arguing that we shouldn't base a student's final grade on their overall average for the year. You can read about that here. If you're curious about the way school reflects the real world (or the ways it doesn't), you should check out this article.

How do you think schools should define failure? Do you think it's the school's job to reflect the real world? Or is school in a different situation and that's not its goal? How would you define failure in the education system if left up to you?

Tori Pakizer is the Social Media Editor at She writes regularly about the use of educational technology in K-12 classrooms, and specializes in how teachers use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media. You can follow Tori and SimpleK12 on Twitter @SimpleK12. If you have ideas for using social media in schools, please send your information or tip to

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