Letter grades

Nicole - posted on 01/15/2011 ( 39 moms have responded )

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Do letter grades encourage competition as opposed to cooperation?
Are letter grades necessary in elementary school?

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[deleted account]

Yeah, and soon the "does not meet expectations" (or whatever it is) will hold the same stigma as an 'F' anyway.

Amy - posted on 01/16/2011

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I don't think grades are about competition with others, but personal achievement. Competitions can drive people to do better. Letter grades in elementary, why not? I do not believe that everyone should just pass and get a nice shiny participation ribbon. Life isn't like that. you don't all succeed no matter what and you are graded and evaluated at jobs. Isn't school supposed to help prepare for life as well as the things we teach them at home? And how does a child know if they aren't doing enough or doing well if no one tells them but lets them slide through? If they don't do letter grades, then it's number grades......which mean the same darn thing. awesome, good, okay, not so good, awful.

Jennifer - posted on 01/16/2011

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As a teacher I would have to say that parents with children in elementary school can still be informed of their child's progress without the use of a letter grade. Children at that age do not need formal assesments and can be assesed informally through their work and participation within the classroom. As far as competition, children at this age do not necessarily understand the concept of letter grades. There are a variety of other means in which children can compete; such as activities within the classroom and projects. Some parents only understand or perhaps are more comfortable with letter grades in order to be reassured on how their child is doing. However, if the parent is committed to communication with the teacher throughout the school year, then there shouldn't be a problem.

[deleted account]

I don't know at what grade we get letter grades cuz we're not there yet (4th grade). There was a big thing about doing away w/ the letter grades so that kids that would get F's wouldn't feel like failures.

I really wish the girls had letter grades. A, B, and C are things I understand. I know they are bright, but the whole ME (meets w/ excellency) and MP (meets w/ proficency) thing is confusing to me. Proficent is good, but HOW proficent?? ;)

[deleted account]

@Jessica...I fully agree with the extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation. In an ideal situation all teachers would know how to make students WANT to learn.

Some form of assessment still NEEDS to be present in school though. It's important for the teachers and parents to know if and where there is a deficiency in learning. Letter grades are just so universal and easy for parents to understand. Honestly, not using letter grades wouldn't bother me as long as the system of assessment is accurate (unlike standardized testing). But the new system...whatever that is...will eventually cause the same discouragement or extrinsic motivation in students at the letter grade system. It's just a new way of doing the same thing.

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[deleted account]

My son got letter grades till middle school with the exception of Math. In Math they had some strange system of saying things like developing, on target, etc. What it left me with was a feeling of, "Ok but is he passing or does he need help?" I don't think they foster competition. I think they are clear indicators of where you stand and helps you know if you need help or not. It's only competitive if you make it so. Even still, what's wrong with a competition. High school kids vie for Valedictorian. Is that wrong? You're simply going to have some kids who are better at it than others and I firmly believe that trying to force them all to be equal is silly in a very Harrison Bergeron way.

OhJessie - posted on 04/30/2011

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Unless they're graded on a curve it isn't necessarily competition. But what's wrong with competition?

Jane - posted on 01/17/2011

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I think letter grades absolutely encourage competition and they should. Competition is LIFE. Everyone competes and kids need to learn that from the start. So yes, I think letter grades should be used as soon as 1st grade.

[deleted account]

We just had my kindergarten son's parent/teacher conference. In his district (different from the oe where I teach) for Kinder they use the letter "P" for Proficien. I honestly don;t know what the other letters are used because he was proficient in all academic components. The word profcienct tells me he is mastering that specific skill. At the younger grades, it is important to evaluate and grade social/emotional skills as well. My son received an "S" Satisfactory for following directions. I can understand that too.

Nikkole - posted on 01/17/2011

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I like letter grades a lot more than excellent or not meeting blah blah blah! I am going to school to be a teacher (when hubby graduates) and when i become a teacher i will also add notes with report cards telling the parents what areas the kids are having problems in i feel as a parent would want to know so i could help!

Sherri - posted on 01/17/2011

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School work in our school system Sara is not graded before 5th grade. If my child is falling behind our teachers do know and we are notified. Trust me the teachers are still looking and going over the work so they still know when the students are struggling and the teachers also go over homework as well. They just don't put an actual grade on the assignments.

Also I am FOR grades I said that already I hate this S for satisfactory crap. I want grades!! However, as a parent I just don't hold much stock in the actual number grade and never allow it to become a competition with my children is all I am saying. To me effort grades count much more.

[deleted account]

Sherri, that's great for parents, but not realistic for teachers. Yes, teachers should praise their students' efforts. But if you grade strictly on "you tried really hard" you can't fully assess where they are falling behind. Grading students' work helps a teacher to see exactly WHY the student is struggling so they can know the best possible way to help them master the material.

Sherri - posted on 01/17/2011

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Our grading system from 5 grade through 12th grade is as follows:

A= 100%-90%
B= 89-80%
C=79-70%
F=69% or lower

I don't want so much the letter grade as the effort grade. I don't give a rats behind what the actual letter grade is as long as their effort grades are A or B's. In our house you can get an A letter grade but an F in effort and your butt is grounded and the same you can get an F letter grade and A in effort and will be praised for doing your very best.

Mother - posted on 01/17/2011

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We homeschool, so there really isn't a grading system in place. Even tho I do print one up for my daughter (per her request) I don't think this type of grading is good. Not all kids are good at the same thing but because they aren't good at say Gym but excel in Math shouldn't minimize what a kid is capable of. Some kids will just quit trying which is awful. they will learn it when they are ready to learn it. There are lots of topics I couldn't grasp growing up but put it in front of me now and I look at it and go.....its so simple, why couldn't I get it?? I bet lots of people are saying but at least they are good at Math. What if it was the other way around. Children should not be made feel bad. Thank goodness my daughter had excellent grades when in school so it doesn't pertain to us. By making a child feel like a failure we run the risk of losing that brilliant mind.

Albert Einstein failed most classes he attended as well.....imagine if we hadn't listened to him!!!!!!

Tracey - posted on 01/17/2011

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At my school we use levels and letters which are totally confusing to kids and parents. Levels 1 - 4 (primary school) and levels 4 - 7 (secondary school) each level goes C, B, A, when you have finished level 7 you go onto GCSE grades A - F which are marked D - developing work at this level, C -competent at this level and E - exceeding this level.
Letter grades are easy and universally understood. In my class we also use stamps, stickers and house points so if a child gets a lower grade but we feel they worked hard they get a stamp that says great work.

Amanda - posted on 01/17/2011

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My school district uses numbers



1- Fail - a D

2- A Pass - a D - C

3 - A very good Pass - a B - A

4 - Above and beyond expected - a A+ or Gifted



This actually helped both my children when the school board switched, my smart child always got A's and her ego was HUGE when it came to school. when she started getting 3s (she was expecting to get 4s) she realized she was not doing the best she can do. My son on other hand has a learning disiblity so getting D's and C's were crushing to his ego. After the switch, he brings home 2-3s which has helped with his confidence in school.

[deleted account]

In most school districts, there is a letter to percentage grade range. Our state regualtesit likes this (which I completely disagree with)
A= 100%-90%
B= 89-80%
C=79-70%
D=69-60%
F=59 and below

I personally don't care for this scale becasue it is too wide of a range. Growing up in NJ the scale was shortened, and therefore more competative for those higher grade. A 65% was already failing. At the higher grade levels, parents & students need to be able to see what they know and what they don't know. In the U.S. we sadly live in a world of high stakes testing, so the lawmakers (not all educators) have decided what is considered best practice for our students.

Jessica - posted on 01/17/2011

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My issue with grades, and I know there is research on this, is the one of motivation. And no, its not just about "keeping kids from feeling like failures"- though I don't think people should be so quick to dismiss that idea either. Sara's story above, about the boy becoming greatly discouraged because he only got a "C" even though he had improved, is a good example.

So much importance is placed on grades and not enough on actual learning, or motivation to learn. People want their kids to get "good grades." But then kids become less interested in what they're actually supposed to be learning about, and more concerned with getting an A. Lets face it, surely we all know that higher grades do not always equal understanding of the subject. I can speak from personal experience- I wanted to get A's to please the teachers. To be a "good student." I lost interest in much of what I was learning about because it was only about doing what I had to to get a high grade. That continued through college, when I had the freedom to actually learn about things I was interested in! Its a personal anecdote but its true on a larger scale as well. Kids become good at doing what they need to do to get the grade- but not to learn. It's an extrinsic motivator, contradictory to helping a child become intrinsically motivated. Personally, I hope to help my kids become motivated to learn and want to do things because they *want to* and less about earning an arbitrary letter.

[deleted account]

Gotcha. Thanks for clearing it up.

My opinion on the effort grade...sure for encouragement to the student who is trying and improving. But the letter grade based on actual performance is what should count, "officially."

The reason I say this...When I was a student teacher I had a student that had already failed twice by the time he was in third grade. Pretty smart kid, actually. Major family problems and possibly (I'm almost positive) an undiagnosed learning disorder. Anyway, we took a liking to each other and he actually tried for me. We stayed in at recess and studied together. He made a "C" on his spelling test...the first passing grade all year. I excitedly told him that he had only missed 2 words. He asked if that was an "A". I regret that I didn't tell him, "It's an 'A' today!" or something like that. When I said it was a "C" his whole body slumped and he was dejected. It was so difficult to get him to try the next week, because he felt like he couldn't do it. Some kids are just so beat down, that ANY small improvement or change should be greatly celebrated. But "officially" that grade still would have been a "C" in the grade book.

Sorry for the ramble. =)

Sherri - posted on 01/16/2011

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I want letter grades and effort grades. I want an actual letter or number grade there not this S for satisfactory crap. This tells me virtually nothing. Does it encourage competition NO.

Sherri - posted on 01/16/2011

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NO, NO they aren't necessary and most no longer use them. Personally I DESPISE it. You have no idea where your child is at. I want letter grades but even more important I want effort grades.

Jenn - posted on 01/16/2011

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Sorry - didn't mean to direct it at you - I guess I just saw you saying how it would have the same stigma - which I think it should! If you are failing something then clearly you haven't grasped the concept and you need to know that. It needs to be made very clear that this is something that needs work. I really don't like the "no child left behind" bullshit that they use now. What's wrong with failing a grade if you really should fail? If you don't have a fucking clue what you're doing and they keep pushing you further along without you actually having a grasp on what you're supposed to be learning, it will only further deter you from trying and make you feel like more of a failure. I know a few kids who failed a grade in school and it did NOT impact their social life, nor did it hurt their education. It HELPED their education because they obviously needed to learn the info, and they hadn't done so the first time around.

[deleted account]

An F should equal failure since that's what it is. I don't agree w/ the grading system either, but I don't make the rules. ;)

[deleted account]

Jen, not sure why this is directed at me:

@Sara - shouldn't an F = failure? That's what it is. Wouldn't doing away with that and trying to make the kid feel better about their failing grade just be coddling them and counterproductive?

But, yes I agree. All I was saying to Teresa, is that if letter grades are done away with, the "new" system would eventually hold the same meanings as the old anyway. So why keep changing it and confusing parents?

In my old school, we were told to stop marking kids' papers with red pen because red was harsh. So we switched to purple ink. How long before the purple starts to hurt kids feelings? Silly...

Amie - posted on 01/16/2011

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Our school system switched over to:
N = Not yet meeting expectations (for grade level)
B = Beginning to meet expectations (for grade level)
M = Meeting expectations (for grade level)
E = Excelling (grade level)

I hate it. It's been this way for a long time, since our oldest started kindergarten. We do get their work sent home though, so if we want to know the percentages and where they are falling over all (percentage wise) we can figure it out ourselves. It's just a pain in the arse though.

Another thing that surprised me, they even grade on their personal and social behaviors. I never had that as a child.

So instead of coming home with a report card, they all come home with at least 5 papers of all of this stuff. Each page has the classes, with a bunch of comments for the teachers to make about your child, their strengths and what they need to work on, personal observations about your child that pertains to that class, etc.

All in all, it's a lot more involved report card. I really wish they would go back to letter or percentage grades. In High school they have not, as of yet, changed this though. Percentages are still handed out but there was talk of changing that too. "To help with self esteem". What?!! If you're failing, you're failing. No pretty words will make that different.

I can understand their ideas behind it but that doesn't mean I agree with it. All the extras that are included in the report card are things covered during parent teacher conferences. Though, I suppose, for parents who blow those off, it helps them.

Tara - posted on 01/16/2011

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As a homeschooling parent I think that I am able to assess my children on a day to day basis, I do not assign letter grades, but when I mark a page of math questions and they get 7/10 I put a big 70% on the top. But when I do it, I tell them how I figured out what % 7/10 is!
I do believe children in a classroom setting must be evaluated and assessed but I think it can be done without the use of letter grades.
I don't like the idea of having children in grade 2 being told by a report that they are "failing" or "below average". Each child learns differently and at a different rate, by reinforcing the positives and stressing more practise in the areas where a student needs more strength is far more productive than telling them they aren't good enough.

Lady Heather - posted on 01/16/2011

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I'd prefer to see grades so I knew how things were going also. When I started elementary school we had grades. Then the self-esteem police came along and decided that our feelings were being hurt and the teachers were told they could no longer give out grades and on top of that they couldn't say anything negative in their reports. It was ridiculous. We had kids in Grade 5 who couldn't read and the teachers have to try and say that in a nice way just in case the kid who can't read manages to read his report and gets sad.

[deleted account]

I use percentage grades, no letters. Students/parents can easily understand a numerical grade like 85% and 42%.

Arizona is slowly switching from letter or percentage grades to the following categories:
Exceeds (the standard)
Meets (the standard)
Approaches (the standard)
Falls Far Below (the standard)

For example, this upcoming week I am combing several proficiencies into my lessons: draw conclusions, summarizing/paraphrasing, fact/opinion, identifying certain aspects of a paragraph.
My grade book is set up like this:
3R-S3C1-09-PO2 Fact/Opinion 4/5=80% Meets Standard
3R-S3C1-09-PO4 Id parts of Paragraph 2/5=40% Falls Far Below

I am happy to explain to parents about the new switch in the terminology. They simply want a "pass/fail" but it's more to it-I need to know if a student barely failed, or completely BOMBED. Or, what is the pattern of Exceeding and Meets. I like crunching the quantitative data, but the qualitative data is also equally important.

Jenn - posted on 01/16/2011

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It's unclear to me how using some other grading system is any different if you're concerned with kids comparing grades - "Hey Susie, I got a VLA" "Yeah Johnny, well I got a VHA!" No different. Why shouldn't kids be graded on their work? If they took a spelling test and they got 5 right and 20 wrong - that would be 20% or an F. How else would you grade something like that?

Bonnie - posted on 01/16/2011

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I also think it is important to know how kids are doing in school and letter grades do that IMO. I received letter grades in school and to me it gives the child and the parent more of an idea of where improvements need to be made. I do remember that report cards were quite confidential, but the students always conversed afterwards and of course there was competition. So and so was on the honour system and a friend had to try and rise to the top to get to where that person was. When someone receives an F they shouldn't be made to feel better about it. That is the worst they can do and they need to improve no matter what.

Jenn - posted on 01/16/2011

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I think it's important so that you know how your kid is doing in school, and areas that may need improvement. When I was a kid we had letter grades and I don't remember any kids comparing or competing.

@Jackie - you punish your kids for the grades they receive?

@Sara - shouldn't an F = failure? That's what it is. Wouldn't doing away with that and trying to make the kid feel better about their failing grade just be coddling them and counterproductive?

Stifler's - posted on 01/15/2011

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We never got letter grades at school now that you mention it. We got Very Low Achievement, Low Achievement, Satisfactory Achievement, High Achievement and Very High Achievement and there were 10 levels between each grade. I got a VLA 3 for maths in grade 12 - IMO the same as a FAIL.

Iris - posted on 01/15/2011

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I actually like the ME/MP grades.
Grades are important so us parents can see what the child needs more help with and what is on track. I do think the grades should be between the parents and the child, not the child's trophy to rub other parents/children nose in it.

Stifler's - posted on 01/15/2011

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Yeah I agree with Sara aren't they meant to be confidential anyway

[deleted account]

Letter grades should be private, so I'm not sure how it would encourage competition (unless you are striving to be Valedictorian in high school).

School work should be assessed. Doesn't necessarily have to be a letter grade. But letter grades are pretty universal and parents understand them.

Stifler's - posted on 01/15/2011

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Yes, kids need to be marked on their work. If it's sub par they need extra help or to work harder. Learning is really important in the lower grades that's where all the maths and english is supposed to be taught.

Jackie - posted on 01/15/2011

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my son went to 4 different elementary schools in different states... 2 of each kind (with and without). The grades helped me more as a parent to know exactly how he was doing, I didnt really talk to my kids about their grades in elementary, I am not sure if they understood the report card concept anyway.
Now that they are middle and high school age, they understand the punishment that goes with any grade lower than a C. (smile)

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