Repair Kit study guide: purpose of grades, group grades, and limiting number of A’s given

The next six statement are all on a scale of agree to disagree.  Some I disagree with rather vehemently, just a warning.

14: The ONLY purpose for grades/marks should be to communicate student learning at a point in time.

I somewhat disagree with this statement.  I believe grades/marks should be used to demonstrate progress or lack thereof.  They can be indicators of struggles with a concept or with something else in life.  Years ago we had a gifted student in the middle school where I worked whose grades were suddenly dropping.  We knew she was capable of the work but it wasn’t getting done.  When we sat down with mom to express our concerns we learned the problem was not school or her abilities, rather it was life.  Mom and Dad were getting divorced and Dad had already moved in with someone else whom he was planning to marry as soon as the divorce was final.  This was a major shake-up in the students’ world.  Things like this happen all the time and believe it or not grades/marks can be a good indicator.  It is well publicized that a drop in grades is one indicator of drug use as well.  Grades are so much more than just a picture of student learning at a single point in time.


15: One should NEVER include group scores in grades for individual students.

Agreed, I think everyone remembers being part of a group project where one of the members did not pull their weight, then the whole group lost points due to that.  Now in the interest of disclosure I have not always agreed with this statement.  I have in the past given group grades that were included in the final grade.  To try to make it more fair in my first few years of teaching I include a peer assessment section to the group grade. Each student was given 100 points to distribute to their groupmates how they felt was appropriate according.  I added these up and they were part, a small part but part of the final project score for that students.  Looking back I’m appalled that I did this with so little direction to the students on how to actually assess their groupmates work.  Even then it left me feeling a bit uncomfortable so I tried just grading the parts each student did but that seemed to defeat the purpose of giving a group project: cooperative learning. Maybe this is where grading by standards comes in would come in handy, awarding not scores but marking on a checklist of standards covered?  Definitely something to think about.


16: There should be a limit to the number of students who receive marks/grades of A.


In case you can’t tell from the above I vehemently, emphatically disagree with this statement.  We as educators do a disservice to students when we allow only a certain number of As.  Grade distribution according to the Bell Curve needs to disappear, NOW.  I would jump for joy, shout from the mountaintops, dance in the streets (OK you get the idea) if all of my students earned As.  One of my goals as a teacher is to help my students achieve to the best of their ability, if I limit the number of As my students  can earn I fail.  It’s simply not fair, and yes I know that life’s not fair.  I’ve used that phrase in my classroom many times but if a student earns an A that is the grade they should receive.  To say to a student well you did good your final score was in the percentage range for an A but since there were 5 people who scored higher than you and I only give out five As then you get a B, usually followed with “next time try harder” is infuriating and ridiculous.  There are students for whom a C is a major accomplishment, those who study day and night and just barely get the A, so if they end up with a B what’s to stop them from saying why bother spending that extra time studying if (pick 5 names of the smartest students in the class) are going to get the As anyway.  See, yeah, NO!  This is a bad, bad idea!

Ok now you clearly know how I feel, what do you think?




  1. Honestly, the bell curve got me a C a couple of times during college. I really deserved a D! Of course, I agree that it shouldn’t be used any longer. Grading team projects is absolutely the hardest thing to do. It seems that there is at least one child in each group who just doesn’t do her/his fair share and everybody knows it! And, yet, team building skills are so important in life as we know it in the business world these days. We must figure out a more accurate way to assess team projects both individually and as a group.

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