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School Grades and Classroom Performance

You've probably seen bumper stickers that boast "My child is an honor student at.... School." Every parent wants his or her child to do the best she can--but are grades a good indicator of effort and ability? A great deal of emphasis is put on getting good grades, and grades have traditionally been considered a good indicator of student progress. As your child enters middle school or junior high, and eventually high school, grades take on even more importance as she prepares for college.

School Grading

Grades may not be the best indicator of your child’s abilities. Let's look at some school grading scenarios:

  • Student Fixation on Straight A's - Many students, particularly high-achieving students, want very badly to get all A's. The occasional B can be devastating and send the student begging for extra work to do to boost their score.
  • Parent Standards. Some parents expect their child to receive only perfect grades. While encouraging your child to do well and expecting high standards is commendable, grades are often overemphasized and can be dependent on multiple factors, such as level of difficulty, type of homework, test, or quiz.
  • Different Grading Standards between Teachers. Consider, for example, two teachers who are teaching the same subject at the same grade level. Each teacher may give different tests and have different grading criteria, even when there is a school-wide set curriculum. One teacher may give a test that is fact-based and easily completed by a student who has studied the material. In contrast, another teacher may give a test that requires that the student do more critical thinking in order to achieve that same grade.
  • Weighted Grades. Beginning in the middle grades, teachers may give use weighted grades, where tests scores, for example, factor higher when computing the overall score. It is good to discuss these issues with your child's teacher. Find out how he or she computes scores, whether they are weighted differently, and whether other factors, such as participation and effort, enter into the equation.
  • Test Anxiety. Many students do their best, and study hard only to find that they just don’t do well on exams. Test anxiety can lower your child's overall score. Talk to your child’s teacher about using different test formats or ways to help your child overcome her test anxiety.

Understanding your child’s personal abilities and gauging whether or not she needs help may be as simple as having a clear understanding of how she is graded. If you think your child is not working to the best of her ability, talk to the teacher, a parent coach, a guidance counselor, or a family therapist for additional guidance.