Grades are indispensable in assessment

Until the 1960s, grades were considered a normal part of instruction (“If All Men are Created Equal, Why Do We Need Grades?” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal,” July 29).  But the practice was soon seen as harmful to the self-esteem of students. In fact, the FERPA act of 1974 prohibits the posting of grades as an invasion of students’ privacy.

Although the issue at first involved the public posting of grades, the issue today involves the private issuance of grades.  I think that shortchanges students in the long run.  Everything that people do is evaluated in one way or another.  It may not literally involve a grade, but it always involves assessment.  I realize that egos and feelings can be hurt, but that is part of life, and students need to get used to it.

Some students are smarter or work harder than others, which often is reflected in their performance.  So be it. The reality, however, is that everyone is good at something.  It’s called individual differences.  Eventually, most young people find that out.  One of the ways they do so is to get realistic feedback from teachers.  Their feelings may be hurt momentarily, but they will be thankful down the line.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “Grades are indispensable in assessment”

  1. Absent grades (or some other form of differentiating feedback), how does a person reach a rational opinion re his/her strengths/weaknesses? Absent feedback, I might have gone through life thinking I was a professional-level baseball player or a world-class singer, but an incompetent lawyer. Of course, if I had pursued a career as a professional baseball player or professional singer, I would have been a total failure. As a lawyer, I did reasonably well. So long as the “real world” continues to provide rewards based on differentiated abilities, schools must provide grades or other differentiating feedback so that students can rationally identify their strengths/weaknesses.


  2. Labor Lawyer: Correct! Ratings are an indispensable part of life. That’s why people want referrals. They rely on feedback to make decisions. Students are being shortchanged when they don’t get grades.


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