Failure Prevention in Grading Actions — Using the SI2TE Model

August 20, 2017

A question I challenge secondary teachers and administrators with often:  What would you rather put more effort into-Preventing student failures or enduring them.  Many grading and feedback actions can drive student achievement and learning while actually increasing resilience and stick-with-it-ness. There isn’t a silver-bullet strategy however that is full proof.  What can help teachers and leaders determine strategies is to apply a framework to determine specific actions.  The SI2TE model can provide a road-map effective failure prevention grading strategies (Nagel, 2015, p.103).

SI2TE stands for: Support, Intervention, Incentives, TIME, & Evidence.

Support: A large number of students entering middle and high school have a history of academic struggles and failure. Many haven’t been supported in developing the grit to keep trying to learn when things get tough. Caring and support is the single most important factor in building resilience in students (Henderson, 2013, p. 24).

Intervention: Schools and individual classroom teachers will have the best chance to prevent unnecessary student failure by intervening as they see signs of it. Allowing even one avoidable failure places that student at the “threshold” of an indicator of potentially dropping out (

Incentives:  Conclusive studies proving punishing students with low grades will increase effort have not been found (Guskey, 2009). Teachers can prevent failure and increase grit by moving away from the erroneous notion that the bigger the consequence the better chance of increasing desired behavior. When teachers implement grading practices that focus on incentives as opposed to consequences, they can significantly decrease unnecessary failure. Creating incentives for example to exceed work deadlines as opposed to a larger consequence for missing them is one example.  Teachers can reduce the number of students with failing grades by incentivizing student input or effort vs. solely on the outputs or proficiency (Allen and Fryer, 2011).

TIME: Time is the one variable teachers control when it comes to learning & grading. Schools that focus more on students learning content and mastering skills well as opposed to the specific time frame in which they do learn can also help avoid unnecessary failure. Teachers and school leaders must acknowledging that when students fall behind in skill and knowledge they will need additional time to learn before being evaluated by a grade (Nagel, p.104).

Evidence: Finally, teachers must use the best evidence when grading their students. This is especially true when the possibility of failure is being considered. Course failures can be dramatically decreased by allowing students to present multiple pieces of evidence related to their mastery of essential content and skills. Also, when students have demonstrated to be behind in skills, teachers may need to collect more evidence from students. The less confident teachers are about student proficiency, the more assessment evidence they should collect and use (Marzano 2006, p. 114).


Allen, B., & Fryer, R. (2011). The Power and Pitfalls of Education Incentives. The Hamilton Project. Discussion Paper, 2011-07. Washington, DC.

Guskey T., & Bailey, J. (2009). Developing Standards-Based Report Cards. Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Press

Henderson, N. (2013). Havens of Resilience. Educational Leadership. September 2013, Vol. 71. No. 1

Nagel, D. (2015): Effective Grading Practices for Secondary Teachers: Practical Strategies to Prevent Failure, Recover Credits, and Increase Standards-Based/Referenced Grading.Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Press

The National High School Center. Retrieved from: and: