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Understanding Your Child's Grades

 

Q. I was fine with the traditional letter grades: A, B, C, D and F. Everybody understood what they meant. Now grades have become so complicated, and there are so many unfamiliar words teachers use now to describe the grades, that it's confusing. Isn't the whole point of grades to communicate clearly to the parents and the student how things are going?

 

Well, yes. Straight "A's" still mean something to parents, and so do "F's." But these are not your father's "A's" or "F's." In the 1990s, public schools in this country changed from a traditional style to a more systematic one known as "outcome-based education." The basis for grades shifted from the individual teacher's professional opinion, to governmental learning standards that have been developed through the political process.

 

This came out of the federal education law, Goals 2000, which mandated that schools should measure what students know and are able to do. A lot of the changes this new approach created are beneficial, but some are viewed as detrimental. The basic complaint: overstandardization and overregulation of the educational process, including how grades are determined. Consequently, there has been a good deal of misunderstanding as parents struggle to understand all the educational jargon that has come with the changes in the grading system. You are not alone!

 

Nowadays, we call an educational "outcome" a "standard," instead. So we have "standards-based" grading. A "standard" is something that a student should know, or be able to do. Think of a "standard" as a "learning expectation." Educators "codified," or put into a code, all the things that we want children to learn in each subject at each grade level.

 

The standards not only changed the grading system and report cards, but also the way educators use the assessment process. An "assessment" is a judgment of value; you know that from having your house assessed for taxes. With the standards-based changes of the 1990s, we moved to "assessing" our students, rather than testing them. It has to do with how well we think they'll do in the work world, on down the line.

 

Those of us from agricultural states know that "standard," in the beef business, is a grade of beef "below good." It's kind of like "C"-rated beef. Using that analogy, today's "standards" of learning are sort of like the level of academic work that used to rate a "C." So when a grade indicates that your child has received an "A" in a subject, thereby meeting the standards, you have to realize that really, what your child has mastered used to be considered "C" level work.

 

Of course, veteran teachers still know "A" work from "C" work, and there are checks and balances in place in most districts. Classroom test and quiz scores are still part of the overall grade, along with homework, writing samples, projects, class participation and so forth. Much of schooling is still quite rigorous in most districts.

 

But it is more possible now than ever that a student might "look good on paper," but not really be excelling as much as the grade might suggest, because the student is just able to comply with a standardized learning system that puts the accent more on the form than the substance.

 

 

Homework: Here's good advice for talking with your child about bad grades:

 

www.thecutekid.com/parenting/respond-kids-bad-grades.php

 

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.ShowandTellforParents.com Parental Involvement 06 2008

 

 

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