The amount of paperwork it takes to record a failing grade that the student worked (or didn't work) all semester to earn is absurd. It multiplies of the student has any kind of learning disability or language difference. It's fear that rules our education system and that has to change. Principals are afraid of getting fired, teachers are afraid of paperwork, parents are afraid their kids aren't getting a fair shot, and the students, well, some are afraid of being disappointed in themselves or disappointing others, but many more have no fear at all.
"You can't fail us all" was a quote from a student whom asked if I could just give him a 70 when he'd earned an astonishing 10 in my class. He was only half wrong. The blowback from actually giving kids what they've earned is so daunting that many teachers just don't do it. How does this change teacher culture? It destroys it.
Many teachers feel there is no point in grading assignments when they will be forced to give a 70 anyway. Why push kids to learn, why push kids to excel, why struggle to get them to behave? Burnout comes from hopelessness. If you can't see things getting better and there's not light at the end of the tunnel, a lot of people just give up. It's hard to keep doing it "for the love of the game" after 10+ years in the classroom. That's why average teacher life is only about 5. The culture we've created to "save" our students is "killing" our teachers and lowering the standards for our entire education system.
What's the solution? We need to be OK with failure. This doesn't mean telling students that it is OK to fail and passing them anyway (what we're doing now), but telling them it is NOT OK and that they will stay in their current grade or won't receive their diploma until they can show that they have ACTUALLY learned what the state says they need. Is the truth so hard that we need to fudge it? If so, then let's change that sad reality by addressing it, not covering it up.