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Time to rethink A to E grading?

2 minute read

Schools use PAT to measure and describe student achievement. But how do we communicate learning progress to parents and carers? In a recent column for Teacher magazine, Professor Geoff Masters writes that A to E grades leave much to be desired.

A recent US survey found that 90 per cent of parents believed their child was performing at or above year-level expectations, while data from assessment indicates the figure is closer to 37 per cent. Why the mismatch? Many parents base their beliefs on grades in school reports, Professor Masters writes, which are open to phenomena such as ‘grade inflation’ – a tendency over time to award more As and Bs, and to use grades to reward effort rather than achievement. 

But, given that grades reflect performance in a particular body or course of work at a particular moment in time, how well do grades communicate learning achievement – and progress – anyway?  

‘A more useful report might identify the stages individuals have achieved in their learning, explain what that means in terms of current levels of knowledge, understanding and skill and make suggestions for appropriate next steps,’ Professor Masters says. 

Such a report would also suggest how parents might help students progress.

‘If parents are to be effective partners in their children’s learning, they require accurate and usable information about the stages individuals have reached in their learning, and about the kinds of stretch challenges likely to promote further growth,’ Professor Masters says. ‘By themselves, grades provide neither.’ ■

Read the full story, ‘How well do grades convey attainment and progress?’, in Teacher.

Read more about ACER’s Communicating Student Learning Progress project in Discover.

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