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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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