SI2TE Model for Failure Prevention


Support — Paramount to Everything Else

The first element of SI2TE is support. Preventing failure begins and ends with students knowing their academic struggles are not permanent. Learned helplessness is the result of looking at adversity as permanent or beyond the control of the teachers. Students who view their teachers as a support network will exert higher levels of effort and engagement and are less likely to even consider dropping out of school (Yazzie-Mintz, 2010). Nan Henderson (2013, p. 24), president of Resiliency in Action, notes that providing “caring and support” is the single most important factor in building resilience in students.

(Early) Intervention

Schools and individual classroom teachers will have the best chance to prevent student failure by intervening as they see signs of it. Students’ perception of being supported early is critical as well, because it relates to their motivation to learn. Ron Ferguson notes that increased self-efficacy in students can be increased with “high help” (Viadero, 2008). The National High School Center (n.d.) notes that failure of one class is a threshold indicator, meaning that failing even one course places students past the onset of potentially dropping out. It recommends that teachers evaluate grades between 20 and 30 days after the start of the semester to look for signs that intervention may be needed for some students (2013).

(Increasing) Incentives

When schools and classroom teachers implement grading practices that focus on incentives as opposed to consequences, they can significantly decrease unnecessary failure. In a 2011 study, researchers Allan and Fryer examined the impact of teachers incentivizing student input (efforts) versus outputs (proficiency). They found that creating incentives is an effective way to counteract consequences like failing grades. The notion that low grades will teach stu­dents a lesson about the importance of effort on future assignments is unfounded. Conclusive studies proving punishing students with low grades will increase effort have not been found (Guskey & Bailey, 2010).


Schools that focus more on students learning well as opposed to the time frame in which they learn can help avoid unnecessary failure. It’s a basic concept that students behind in skill and knowledge need additional time to learn prior to being evaluated by a course grade. Grading expert Ken O’Connor (2010) states that teachers create unnecessary problems by not offering students additional time, as that lack can “motivate the student to exactly the opposite behavior than intended” (p. 24).


The final element of SI2TE is evidence. Teachers must use the best evidence when grading their students, especially when the possibility of failure is being considered. Failure can be dramatically decreased by allowing students to present multiple pieces of evidence of their mastery of essential content and skills. The less certain teachers are about a student’s proficiency, the more assessment evidence they should collect and use (Marzano, 2006, p. 114). To prevent failure effectively, teachers must provide stu­dents with multiple avenues and opportunities to demonstrate evidence of their learning and achievement.


All of the above information was taken in part or adapted from: Effective Grading Practices for Secondary Teachers: Practical Strategies to Prevent Failure, Recover Credits, and Increase Standards-Based/Referenced Grading. (Corwin Press, 2015)