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Grades are Earned by Students, not Given by Teachers

Found in: Leadership Blog

A story is currently circulating among staff about a teacher who awarded a student a ‘D’ grade for an assessment piece. When the student was given their work with the ‘D’ grade marked on it, they said to the teacher “My Mum will be really angry with you!”

As teachers we can all see the funny side of this story, and many of you as parents, will also be amused. However, it is good to remind ourselves that perhaps we need to be making this message clearer to our students “You’ve earned this grade with the work you submitted”.

One of the reasons the Australian Government is now requiring that grades be awarded on a five-point scale and aligned to learning quality, is so the grading system is transparent to parents. In the past, teachers assessed students on myriad pieces of work, students received marks out of ten or one hundred – or were even graded against standards that were different for each teacher. Students were then given a final grade at the end of each term or semester based on a ‘hidden’ number-crunching system. It was very difficult for students to understand how their grade was determined and they (and parents) might have been forgiven for thinking ‘the teacher gave me my grade’. There may have even been an element of student behaviour, student participation or even student willingness to comply with classroom rules and standards included in that grade.

The current grading at MCC, in line with Australian Government standards, is totally transparent for students, parents and College leaders. Our teachers have worked very hard this semester to ensure all assessment tasks include a rubric that describes the possible learning quality of work produced by students. Students are able to take some control and to work to the best of their ability to achieve their best in every assessment piece. Parents too, are able to see what their son or daughter has done to achieve a grade. College leaders are able to scrutinise the quality of tasks designed to elicit the work that students choose to submit, and to ensure the A to E scale for each task is appropriate for the standards expected for age-cohorts across the nation.

It is important that students understand they control the work they produce and can improve on their grade with the support their teachers are giving them. They ‘earn’ their grade; no-one simply chooses to give it without evidence. The evidence is in the quality of the work submitted. At MCC, no-one is a ‘B’ student or a ‘D’ student; the student might earn this grade on a piece of work, but that is all.

Please support us in our work towards greater transparency; when your student comes home from school having had an assessment piece returned, ask them “What grade did you earn for your task?” rather than “What grade did your teacher give you for your task?”

Dr Thelma Perso
Director of Teaching and Learning