What grades mean

Grades mean different in things in different places, writes Stafford Palmieri on Education Gadfly.

BaltoNorth, a Baltimore public school parent, asked for the decoder ring to local middle-school grades.

A ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] 50%
B ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] 31%
C ]]]]]]] 13%
D ]] 4%
E ] 2%

The median grade is between a high B and a low A-.

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  1. It might seem peculiar that in a middle class school 50% of the kids get A’s except that the curriculum has been so narrowed by NCLB that most kids can get A’s. Grades these days are supposed to be based on student’s mastery of content. If the teacher does his/her job then there should be a bunch of A’s. The real decoder ring is the comparison with state assessments.
    For example, Golden Ring Middle in BCPS sored 21% proficient in Math and 41% proficient in reading.
    I sure hope that the decoder ring isn’t Golden. If you want to know the real deal compare a your child’s school’s grades with the state assessment at this website.

  2. Grade inflation–just one of the many scandals of American education, both public and private. But, we should pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

  3. So NCLB’s to blame for grade inflation? That’s some law. Complaints about grade inflation pre-date NCLB by quite a few years so either grade inflation anticipated the passage of NCLB or there’s some other reason for the phenomenon. I’m going with the latter.

  4. Margo/Mom says:

    It’s pretty hard to make an accusation of grade inflation in the absence of any standard by which grades are set. Prior to NCLB, and a few states who were ahead of the curve, curriculum was primarily a local issue and grades set by teachers. There may have been some district “standards” of 90% signifies and A, etc. But 90% of what was still (and in many cases IS still) a teacher determination.

    Some day someone may be able to explain to me the means by which NCLB has narrowed the curriculum–since it doesn’t call for that. It does require that states set a minimum level of proficiency (in reading and math) that all students will be able to achieve. Seems like such a simple thing. Yet it has allegedly resulted in the loss of recess, teacher and administrator dishonesty, student stress, couch potatoes, declines in science, social studies and the arts. Are we really so simple-minded that we cannot get all kids to some measureable level without all this chicanery?

  5. There is no standard for grades. My A is different than an A for the teacher down the hall. They may all be 90%, but how the kid gets that A is an entirely different matter. I think it was Marzano (?) who found that even when you have a group of teachers agree to standard marking on an essay, the most common outcome for marking the same essay is a letter grade difference. I don’t think NCLB is to blame for that one.

    On the other hand, no, I can’t get all kids to the level of achievement mandated by my state. Nope. Ain’t happening. I am really that simple minded (but I’ll forgo any chicanery about it).

  6. superdestroyer says:

    When Fairfax County sends a transscript to colleges an explanation of the grading scheme in also set. Any college that receives applications from Fairfax High School students should be able to understand how a B+ in Fairfax in the same as an A in Montgomery County Maryland.

  7. A lot of universities, for this reason, post indexed grades, with the distribution of scores. Unfortunately, none I know of makes the index a part of the official grade report.

  8. Colleges that practice “holistic” admissions may factor in that a B+ in Fairfax is the same as an A somewhere else, but what about all those colleges, scholarships, and honor societies that rely on a strict formula?

    I had a friend in high school who missed out on being selected for the National Honor Society because she received a “C” in a class taught by a teacher with very strict grading standards. Any other teacher at the school would’ve given her a B- and she’d have been in. It was completely unfair, but there was nothing she could do about it.

  9. greeneyeshade says:

    Just FYI, the post comes from Baltimore County, not Baltimore City, a different jurisdiction with very different problems.