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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

A-F grades don't provide enough useful feedback, say educators

Only 13 percent of teachers say A-F grades are "very effective" in giving useful feedback to students, writes Alyson Klein in Education Week. Another 42 percent choose "somewhat effective." Call it a B-. But alternatives mean a lot more work for teachers and probably more confusion for parents.


A single letter grade doesn't explain what students have mastered and what they don't understand, says Micah Miner, an administrator for a Chicago-area district that's moved to a standards-based system. Students get 1 through 5 rating on their understanding of each standard in a unit.


Giving that specific feedback requires more teacher time.

Traditional A-F and numeric grading systems are easy for parents to understand, says Zack Kleypas, the superintendent of Thorndale district in Texas. “It easily communicates to most parents whether a kid’s doing really good, kind of good, not so good, or bad,” Kleypas said. “If you change that paradigm too much, then you have to spend a lot of your energy training parents to comprehend a completely different system.”


Parents in British Columbia will see "emerging, developing, proficient and extending" on their children's report cards, writes Michael Zwaagstra of the Fraser Institute. How many parents will know whether "extending" is good, bad or indifferent or whether "developing" is better or worse than "emerging?" And even though who read the K-12 Reporting Policy Framework will have to guess whether their child's "emerging" means "meeting no expectations" or "meeting a few expectations." In short, is it a D or an F?


You know what's really useful in judging a student's achievement level? Nationally normed test scores.

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8 Comments


Guest
Nov 10, 2023

A letter scale doesn't prevent teachers from knowing or conveying what a student is struggling with if parents can't tell from looking at the student's work. A B in English with the note 'struggles with spelling' or an C with 'needs practice with reading comprehension' or an A in math with 'doing well, but makes careless errors' is even more straightforward, and easier to do, than rating every single skill. My childhood report cards had a space for a letter grade and then a box for comments. It may miss something, but since most students are not going to be able to fix multiple skills between grading periods, if the parents know 1-2 things to work on it should h…

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Nov 10, 2023

Internationally normed tests are more useful than national ones. The most recent results from the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment show that 8 per cent of American 15-year-olds deserve an A- or better in mathematics, while 27 per cent are failing to achieve this nearest approximation to a global standard for passing maths at the tenth grade level: establish these as grading quotas that teachers are allowed to give out, with adjustments for relatively higher- or lower-achieving American high schools, and you'll finally see some real incentive for improvement.

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Guest
Nov 10, 2023

Every District has a scope and sequence plan for each subject/grade. Shorting the students of opportunity to learn all of the grade level Standards is planned well in advance...but the parents don't know which Learning Standards will be omitted when enroll their child in a particular District. All they know is that the law requires the District to offer Basic only, with the rest being gravy. They don't know which of the non-Basic Standards are essential pre-requisites for further study.

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Richard Rider
Richard Rider
Nov 09, 2023

Today, over 40% of high school kids have an "A" average. A-F grades have become today's version of participation trophies. The best measures for parents, teachers, education supervisors, colleges and employers are nationwide achievement tests such as (but not limited to) ACT, SAT, etc. Such tests should be used all the way down to grades 1-6, so the kids don't get too far behind before it's realized that they have performance problems (for whatever reasons). Teachers should know that their day to day grading WILL be tested by using outside testing. Incentivize the teachers to improve their performance and give more accurate grades. While those "SAT" type scores are also inflated compared to past standards, such tests are useful as a comparison to…

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Guest
Nov 09, 2023
Replying to

NEWTs and OWLs.

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Guest
Nov 09, 2023

"Number sentence"? Call it an equation, kids can cope, don't pretend math is English, because <I>it is absolutely not</i>.

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