If you're a college or university student preparing for careers in education, your academic performance now could affect your career options down the road. While the academic requirements for future educators aren't necessarily more challenging than other majors, your academic record and GPA can have significant implications for how you're perceived as a teacher and which schools might be willing to hire you. For that reason, academic progression may matter even more for education majors than for others.
If you're a college undergrad or graduate student with an education focus and you're having consistent trouble keeping up with coursework or maintaining minimum grades, you may be subject to academic dismissal. Sometimes, it's not your fault. “Life happens” even for college students, and on occasion, there may be personal setbacks, family issues, or even physical or mental illnesses that cause you to fall behind. Even if the school offers remediation options to get you back on track, these efforts are frequently inefficient and counterproductive. If you are dismissed over academic shortfalls, there could be long-term repercussions for your career, even if you manage to re-enroll and complete your degree
The good news is that there are ways to avoid and prevent academic dismissal—if you come into the process prepared. Having an experienced attorney-advisor can go a long way toward resolving academic/disciplinary issues with your school so you can avoid being suspended or dismissed. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has achieved nationwide acclaim for his skills in helping college students navigate academic and misconduct issues with their respective schools. If you're currently facing possible dismissal, we've compiled the following common questions and answers to help you be better informed about the process and the steps you can take to protect your future.
What Are the School's Academic Expectations for Education Majors?
At most colleges and universities, students must maintain a minimum grade point average of at least 2.0 (basically a “C” average) to remain in good academic standing. Certain graduate or post-graduate programs may have more stringent standards, some requiring a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher. The school may offer solutions to assist students who fall below the minimum GPA. These solutions could include academic probation, remediation, and sometimes a leave of absence. For students who have a consistently low GPA or do not improve with remediation, the school may dismiss the student on the grounds of inadequate academic progression.
How Do Colleges and Universities Track the Academic Progress of Education Students
Schools may monitor their students' progress in many ways. Many colleges and universities are now using data tracking algorithms to monitor grades and flag students for academic probation if they fall below an acceptable GPA. Some graduate schools and academic departments have their own committees of faculty and/or students who monitor students' academic progress within their department and offer solutions to those who are falling behind.
What Are the Remediation Options for Education Majors?
Most schools offer various forms of remediation to help students who aren't making sufficient academic progress. For education majors, these remediation programs may be overseen by the undergraduate or graduate Department of Education. Remediation is generally recommended to remedy unsatisfactory academic progress before the school considers the student's dismissal.
If an education major falls behind in their studies or has unsatisfactory grades, the school may recommend any/all of the following forms of remediation:
- Retaking an exam
- Repetition of a course
- Dedicated remedial courses in a particular subject (e.g., science, math)
- Repetition of a semester or school year
- Personal tutoring
- Monitoring by a student advisor
- Customized program developed by an academic advisor or committee
Should an Education Student Automatically Agree to Remediation?
Not necessarily. Remediation is intended (in theory) to help struggling students “right the ship,” but not every remediation program is efficient or helpful. For example:
- Sometimes schools are too quick to put students into remediation without looking at other options or adapting the program to their specific needs. This causes a lot of unnecessary burden for the student.
- Sometimes student grades can be incorrectly or unfairly calculated, placing students in probation territory when they are actually not performing below the expected level.
- Some schools treat remediation as nothing more than a compulsory step before dismissal. In such cases, the remediation may be unhelpful at best and a sham at worst.
These and other reasons are why it is good to consult an experienced attorney-advisor before agreeing to school-imposed remediation. There may be other alternatives to remediation that you haven't considered or that the school hasn't offered.
Is Remediation Going To Hurt My Academic Career or Job Prospects?
It could. While remediation should always be considered as a viable alternative to dismissal, that doesn't mean remediation won't have negative consequences for the student. Some common ways remediation could hurt you:
- Remediation can cause an undue strain on your time and energy, affecting your other studies.
- If there is a window of required completion for your degree, remediation could set you behind on your timetable for completion, possibly causing you to be disqualified.
- Remedial classes can lead to additional tuition costs and/or student loans—without the benefit of credit hours toward your degree.
- Remediation may appear as a negative notation on your academic record, making it more challenging to compete for jobs. (This is a particular concern for education majors because potential employers will likely look very carefully at the academic record of their applicants.)
Remediation should be carefully considered due to these potential risks. Remediation is always preferable to dismissal, but the wrong remediation plan could do more damage than good if the situation is not tailored to your individual needs.
Can I Appeal a Bad Grade?
Yes. Often, a successful appeal of a grade makes remediation unnecessary or irrelevant. It can also restore your GPA and avert the danger of academic dismissal.
Each school has its own protocols and rules regarding grade appeals. In most cases, you'll need to fill out the appropriate form and meet with an advisor or committee to explain why your grade should be changed.
You may be able to overturn a bad grade on any of the following grounds:
- Instructor bias was the determining factor in the grade, not academic performance.
- A calculation error was made regarding the grade.
- The instructor failed to assign the grade according to school guidelines.
- You didn't get accurate information from your instructor regarding the criteria for determining the grade.
- Evaluation of student performance was made using inconsistent guidelines.
- The grade was based not on merit but rather on discrimination or spite.
What Is the Process for Academic Dismissal if I Can't Keep My Grades Up?
Each school has its own policies for dealing with academic progression issues with its students, and this information can usually be found in the school's published Policies and Procedures. The process usually takes a path similar to the following:
- The school reviews your academic progress and history. The Student Progress Committee will examine your progress to determine if any further action should be taken.
- You will be notified of the possibility of dismissal. You'll be instructed where and when to appear before the academic committee.
- You will attend a formal hearing. The committee will schedule a formal hearing to present your side of the story before the committee or board makes its decision.
- The board or committee will make a final determination whether to recommend dismissal.
- You can appeal against an adverse ruling before it becomes final.
What Implications Will My Dismissal Have for My Career as an Educator?
For an education major, the effects of being dismissed for academic reasons may be nothing short of disastrous, with an unforeseen cascade of consequences that could completely derail their career prospects. Here's what can happen when an education major is dismissed:
- You may find it difficult to re-enroll or apply for admission at another school. This can make it difficult for you to resume your education and complete it.
- Difficulty finding employment as an educator. Provided you complete your degree and earn your teaching credentials, many schools will still scrutinize your academic record. If a dismissal notation appears, they may not hire you.
- You may lose all academic progress you have made. This may cause problems if the courses are required to be accepted into graduate programs. It may also mean you have to start your major over from the beginning if you re-enroll.
- You could face financial hardship. All the tuition money you have spent on your education thus far will be lost. Student loans also will need to be repaid.
Because of the severe consequences involved, dismissal is an outcome you want to avoid if at all possible. The involvement of a skilled attorney-advisor could make a huge difference and possibly save your career.
How Can I Appeal My Dismissal?
You have the right to appeal any adverse decision made by the school, including dismissals. Students who want to appeal to the school will need to follow the school's prescribed procedure. Your appeal may involve a separate hearing, or you may only be allowed to appeal in writing.
Depending on the school's policies, you may be eligible to overturn a dismissal on any of the following grounds:
- A procedural error during the investigation negatively affected the final decision.
- In making its dismissal decision, the committee didn't consider key relevant factors.
- The hearing was tainted by bias and you weren't given a fair hearing.
Many schools allow students only a brief window of time to appeal (typically between 5-15 days). This creates a massive time crunch because you have only a short time to develop a compelling argument for why your dismissal should be reversed—and it's effectively your last opportunity to prevent dismissal. Having an attorney-advisor involved in your appeal could make the difference between success and failure.
What Happens During an Appeal of Academic Dismissal?
While the exact process will depend on school procedures, student appeals generally include three stages:
- Submitting your written request. In some cases, this request is simply to notify the school of your intention to appeal. Other schools view the request as the appeal itself, in which case, you'll also need to present all supporting arguments and documentation in writing.
- Consideration phase. The school authorities will examine your appeal and consider additional evidence. During this phase, you may meet informally with the Dean or present your evidence at a separate formal hearing in front of the appeals committee. Sometimes, the consideration phase simply involves a closed-door meeting of the appeals panel to review your request.
- Final decision. Your appeal will be decided by the person deemed to have the final say (usually a dean). There are three possible outcomes at this point: 1) The decision to dismiss is reversed and you will be reinstated as a student in good standing; 2) You'll be reinstated with conditions that must be fulfilled; 3) The decision to dismiss will stand. Whatever the outcome, this decision will be considered final and the matter closed.
How Can an Attorney-Advisor Help Me Avoid Dismissal Because of Academic Shortfalls? What Is the Role of the Attorney-Advisor?
Although students are not allowed official legal representation in school disciplinary matters, you do have the right to have an attorney in an advisory role—and this can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. A good attorney-advisor can:
- Assess your academic standing and the school's intentions so you know what to expect.
- Examine the school's methods of evaluating and calculating your grades to look for discrepancies.
- Evaluate any remediation offers to determine if they will be of any benefit to you.
- Offer advice on how to negotiate for better remediation or changing grades.
- Help you file a successful grade appeal.
- Prepare evidence and a compelling defense at disciplinary hearings.
- Help you prepare a compelling appeal to avert dismissal.
In many cases, an attorney-advisor may be able to help you avoid unnecessary remediation, prevent disciplinary actions, avert dismissal, and, in turn, save your career. Your odds for avoiding a disastrous outcome go up exponentially with an attorney-advisor in your corner.
What Could an Attorney-Advisor Do If My Pursuing Standard Channels Led to No Relief?
You may still have two options: (1) attorney advocacy with your school's Office of General Counsel (OGC) or (2) a civil lawsuit in the courts. Colleges and universities generally have their own attorneys staffing an Office of General Counsel (OGC) to be sure the school applies policies and procedures fairly. OGC attorneys will often listen to an experienced national academic attorney's advocacy on the dismissed student's behalf. Your academic attorney's intervention with the OGC could lead to your reinstatement, even after the school's standard processes confirmed your dismissal. If OGC review doesn't lead to your reinstatement and save your education, then your academic attorney may be able to enforce in the courts, your constitutional and contractual rights to continue your education. OGC relief would be better because it is quicker and less costly, but a lawsuit could be just the right last resort.
As a future educator, you have worked too hard and invested too much in your education to let your career be derailed by academic dismissal. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is nationally known for his achievements in helping college and university students navigate academic progress disputes, academic issues, and other school-related concerns. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.