How To Appeal A Student’s Grade In California

Student grade appeals can be filed

Last Updated on March 15, 2024 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Do you know a student who received an “F” when they should have gotten a “C?” Was the student graded down for discriminatory reasons? Maybe the teacher “lost” the student’s assignments, which lowered their grade? Or, did the teacher fail to provide 504 or special education accommodations which then dropped their final grade? If so, parents can file a grade appeal to try to reverse or improve a student’s final class grade.

Father writing grade appeal
Parents can challenge a student’s bad grade, if certain issues can be proven.

Parents Can File A Grade Appeal

If a student’s final class grade was dropped a full grade point (“B” to “C”), or two ( “A” to a “C”) in English, math, science or another class, in California, parents have the legal right to file a grade challenge with the teacher, school, and later the school district, which issued the wrongful grade.

Per California Education Code section 49066, a teacher’s final grade can be challenged if any of these factors exist:

  • Clerical mistake
  • Fraud
  • Bad faith, or
  • Incompetency

A grade on report card
Student grades matter and can be challenged if they were wrongly issued

If these may be proven to the satisfaction of the District Superintendent or Board of Education, the student’s final class grade could be altered and improved.

Law Mandates Teachers Must Be Involved in Grade Appeals

The teacher who issued the student’s “F” or other bad grade, per section 49066 must “to the extent practicable” be included in the grade appeal discussions.

Teachers sometimes bring in union representatives to assist them, and can cause quite a stir opposing parents simply challenging one student’s grade. Teachers will be allowed to counteract any assertions of the parent and student, such as fraud, bad faith, mistake, or other errors in grading.

Teacher’s can be tough opponents, and some of them cling strongly to their legal right to grade. As such, grade appeals may not be as easy as a parent may think.

Teachers Should Be Spoken to First

Before launching into a formal grade appeal, a discussion with the teacher who issued the grade should be sought. This meeting is usually mandated prior to a parent being able to move to higher levels in any grade challenge

Parents have to gather adequate evidence that the student’s grade is factually wrong or invalid. They can then frame the grade challenge arguments around the legal bases listed above: mistake, bad faith, incompetency, or fraud.

During the meeting with the teacher, the parent’s valid arguments can be discussed, and proof shown. Maybe the teacher will even change their mind and make a correction.

Teen boy looking at camera
Bad grades may impact a student’s future and can prevent them from getting into a preferred college

Why File a Grade Appeal?

I have seen many bad teachers in my time, unfortunately, who may issue student grades improperly or for the wrong reasons.

These false grades can drag a student’s grade point average (gpa) down, and can even impact their ability to get into certain colleges.

Students can also be discouraged if they put in their best effort to get a good grade, but the teacher wrongly grades them down. It shakes confidence and belief that schools are places which will treat a student fair. Students faced with a lying teacher may lose all confidence in the school system and other classes may be impacted.

College scholarships may also be lost due to a bad grade or lower gpa.

Parents need to support students who earned a grade, but did not receive it, whatever the reason. If this means taking on a teacher and an appeal, then so be it. The student will learn that the parents support them and that sometimes in life, hard stands must be taken.

With a student’s faith, emotional health, and college being potentially impacted, challenging a student grade may be wise IF there is a legitimate basis. The reward may be a corrected grade, a higher gpa, and a happier future for the student.

Student lawyer Michelle Ball helps parents and students with unfair grading and grade appeals. Attorney Michelle Ball has an office in Sacramento, California and can assist across the state, in Roseville, Folsom, Woodland, Yuba City, Modesto, Burbank, Sherman Oaks, Fair Oaks, Fremont and many other locations.

Originally published May 16, 2012