Archive for Grades

Who is failing?

Posted in Assessment with tags , on February 5, 2010 by gfreducation

It’s that time of year again.  Its happening in schools all across America.  Students are coming home with the dreaded report card.   The report card is supposed to inform parents of student progress in school.  Students get rewarded for “As” and punished for “Fs.” Do letter grades on report cards really tell us how students are progressing or are they  teacher progress reports? Are the ways students are assessed relevant to the kinds of learning that needs to be happening in schools today?  Do letter grades actually impede student learning? Are there better ways to report progress to parents -and to students, for that matter- than letter grades?

Let’s face it, a grade from one teacher is not equivalent to the same grade from another.  So in essence student “progress” many times depends on teacher philosophy rather than student growth.  Some teachers see the report card as a time to finally exact revenge on students who have not sat quietly and absorbed everything they “taught,”  as if giving  an “F” will suddenly cause the student to pay more attention and learn.  Doesn’t the “F” really mean that the teacher failed to find a way to teach the concept or motivate the child to learn?  Obviously if the teacher was monitoring student progress he/she would have intervened much earlier than report card time and made necessary instructional changes  to ensure student learning.  On the other end of the spectrum, doesn’t an “A” mean that the student was not challenged to his/her fullest potential?  Why would a student take a chance on pursuing challenging material when doing so may result in a “B?” On both sides of the grading spectrum, grades keep students from taking risks and making mistakes– the very thing that leads to learning.

Why are we using a 19th century reporting system for 21st century learners? Shouldn’t progress reports be individualized?   I would love to hear how forward thinking schools have tackled the issue of reporting student progress.