Making the Grade – What You Should Know

February 12th, 2013 posted by Dr. Raymond J. and Eileen Huntington

by Dr. Raymond J. and Eileen Huntington

If you are unhappy with your child’s report card grades, you might be happy to know that many teachers are the first to acknowledge that letter grades – whether A’s of F’s or somewhere in between-do not tell the whole story. Different teachers grade differently and grades can be affected almost as much by a teacher’s grading style as by your child’s achievements. While teachers strive to be fair graders, students are usually pretty savvy when it comes to figuring out who the “hard” graders and “easy” graders are. The tough part for parents is knowing what a grade is really based on and understanding what it represents.

Grading Not Exact Science

Grading is certainly not an exact science, nor do teachers claim it is. A course called “How to Grade 101” is generally not on a teacher’s college transcript. In any case, there’s bound to be an element of subjectivity and a need for judgment on the teacher’s part. All parents are familiar with “The teacher doesn’t like me” as an excuse for a poor grade. Whether that’s true or not, in a given instance, no one denies that the “chemistry” between teachers and their students matters. While one teacher may tolerate a student who speaks up frequently, or even out of turn, another teacher may discourage that same behavior. For good or bad, a child’s in-class behavior – often called “attitude”, positive or negative – can influence his or her grade. This is something you can discuss with both your child and the teacher. //

Grading Process Is Complex

Even with an explanation of what goes into a grade, it can be confusing. Just as the learning process is complex, so is the grading process. For instance, while all teachers emphasize and encourage improvement and development, some may actually weigh later grades more heavily than earlier ones. Some teachers are more naturally nurturing when they grade, and tend to reward trying. Some might even tend to favor the less able child who tries harder over the child who coasts, even if both end up with the same grade. These are all points that can be shared between parents and teachers.

Learning Strategies

A teacher’s classroom learning strategies also affect grading policy. Some teachers go for group work, stressing team effort and collaboration, perhaps even giving a group grade for a shared effort. Another teacher might lean more towards individual achievement. And, of course, many teachers combine both strategies so students learn to work well with others and independently. Clearly, learning objectives overlap, and it is a difficult task for a teacher to give one grade to sum it all up. Indeed, there are formal grading systems which feature two grades for each subject: one for achievement and one for effort. Also using portfolios of work for assessment is gaining popularity in some schools. As parents, you should be aware of which teaching strategies are in place and how they affect your child’s grade.

An Ideal Assessment

Though there is probably no one grading system that can satisfy everyone involved, an ideal assessment would have to include components beyond the traditional report card grade. Many report cards do give some room to teachers’ comments which can be helpful, though the space provided is rarely enough for extensive comments or explanations. Large classes also add to the burden of fully documenting each child’s performance.

Progress Reports

Progress reports, whether good or bad, are additional indicators of how your child is doing in school. Conferences between students and their teachers, and between parents and teachers can also provide valuable information.

Dr. Raymond J. and Eileen Huntington (12 Posts)


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