Can Letter Grades be Misleading?


Letter grades are considered the universal standard for reporting student performance. Although this practice is well established in the American public school system, there is some disagreement as to whether letter grades accurately depict academic mastery of grade-level content.

Letter grades are not always indicative of a student’s academic achievement. This is partially due the ambiguous nature of letter grades themselves and the means by which they are calculated. A letter grade is generally based upon a combination of assessment scores, e.g.; tests and quizzes, homework, class participation, and student conduct, which can be nebulously weighted.  Assessment scores are the only true factors by which a student’s performance can be accurately and fairly gauged.

Homework, class participation, and reinforcing proper conduct can be useful tools in fostering and developing positive individual habits for children and adolescents, but these practices by themselves are not demonstrative of proficiency and thus should not be used in the evaluation of a student’s comprehensive academic performance.  School districts that encourage teachers to consider these factors in calculating a child’s grade simultaneously encourage subjective misrepresentation of a student’s true academic capability.

Many school districts acknowledge that utilizing a letter-based grading system can be both problematic and misleading; however, in some cases this practice is continuously endorsed simply because it is a time-honored tradition.

The only way to shift perceptions and influence grading standard changes is to start evaluating student performance and proficiency as they pertain to curriculum standards. Until that happens, there will always be a disagreement whether letter-based grade should be utilized in public schools.



Categories: Assessment

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