The Pros & Cons of Report Cards & Letter Grades

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Four times a year some students dread taking home their report card. It does no good to hide it, because the parents know when it's coming. For the last few decades there have been groups of parents and educators attempting to come up with a grading system that corrects the negatives or cons of the traditional letter grades.

The Pros of Letter Grades

  • Parents remember and understand the letter grading system. It's easy to be happy that their child earned an "A" — it's also easy to understand that a "D" or "F" is a cause for concern. The letter grades also help motivate students to bring lower grades up to praiseworthy levels. With the addition of the "+" and "-" to each letter grade it also gives thirteen levels of gradation that can more easily show a progress or decline in student performance. If the class is based on mathematical equations — in other words, each assignment is worth a percentage of the grade and is averaged together with tests and projects — it makes less work for teachers as the grade is clearly defined.

The Cons of Letter Grades

  • In the early 1980's an effort was started to remove the letter "F" from the grading system because of the stigma an "F" brings. Some school systems changed it to an "E." The "E" simply replaced the "F" and did nothing to motivate students into better performance. In classes such as PE, music and art, letter grading is based on purely subjective standards. Grading a student's athletic performance with a letter grade is not indicative of the student's total performance in school and can bring an otherwise high grade down. Some object to letter grades on the basis that the students will be more concerned about the score than about what they learn.

The Pros of Report Cards

  • Report cards are a good summary indication of a child's performance in an educational institution. At a glance the parent with little to no educational training can tell what areas their child excels in and in which areas they need help. If additional notations are needed, the teacher can add comments to parents on the report card. Report cards make a good outline to use during parent-teacher conferences and save teachers time in preparation. Report cards become a part of the student's transcripts which are then sent to potential colleges and an "A-F" scale is easily understood and translatable to determine the child's eligibility for scholarships.

The Cons of Report Cards

  • A report card does not take into account the benchmarks of what a child should know at the end of every quarter or year. The final grade on a report card does not always reflect the actual ability of the student to learn. Classes that separate the daily class work grade average and the testing average can be a challenge for students who perform well daily but may not take tests well. Report cards can also be deemed meaningless in poorly performing schools or school districts where the curriculum has been diluted to increase grade level performance reviews. In some schools fifth graders are learning multiplication whereas in others, fifth graders are learning algebra. States that have benchmark standards so that each student is kept on course with similar curriculums have a viable way of accurately judging a student's progress.

References

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