What do those letters or numbers on your child’s report card mean, and how do you talk to students about their grades? Grading systems can evolve over time and vary from school to school, so you may need to learn more about how to interpret your child’s report card. Whatever grading system your school uses, there are some guiding principles you should follow as you support your child in their academic journey.
When Should You Read Your Child’s Grades?
When your child brings home a report card, you may be tempted to read it right away. However, that isn’t necessarily the best approach. Make sure your child has a chance to view and process their grades first. By doing this, you can gain a sense of how your child feels about their grades. A student who is excited to share their grades likely thinks they did great, while a student who appears embarrassed likely feels their grades do not meet personal or parental educational expectations.
Solely viewing grades at the end of a semester or year isn’t ideal because it can be blindsiding. Maybe you assumed your child was doing well only to find out they didn’t achieve proficiency. At Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), we believe in transparent grading that makes it easy for parents to check in on how their children are doing throughout the year.
That’s why we use the live grade book feature from our learning platform called edio — Education for Individualized Outcomes. Edio was created with students and parents in mind and personalized to complement the unique education we provide.
In edio, you can view current and projected grades so you don’t have to wait on a report card. This feature keeps parents updated on their child’s performance in real time. You can help your child troubleshoot when necessary or celebrate their accomplishments along the way.
Understanding Your Child’s Grading System
To understand your child’s grades, you must first understand the grading system your school uses. Some common grading systems include:
- Percentage-based grading: The traditional grading system most schools use is based on awarding students points for participation, homework, and correct answers on assessments. By dividing the number of points a student received by the number of possible points available, the teacher arrives at a percentage score. This system works for assigning grades on individual assignments and for a course as a whole.
- Weighted grading: In high school, weighted grades are typically given for more advanced classes like honors and advanced placement courses. They’re calculated just like percentage-based grades, except they’re boosted to reward the additional effort they require. A typical class is multiplied by a weight of 1.0, so a final score of 90% would remain the same. With weighted grading, a higher-level class may be multiplied by a weight of 1.05, so a final score of 90% would be recorded as 94.5%.
- Letter-based grading: In many cases, the percentages discussed above are translated into letter grades. For example, an 88% might equate to a B+. In some grading systems, teachers refrain from reporting specific numbers and instead assign letter grades based on the range that a student’s performance falls into.
- Standards-based grading: Another option is standards-based, or proficiency, grading. In this grading system, teachers report on a student’s level of proficiency when it comes to a list of standards they are trying to achieve in a class. For example, a child’s report card could list anywhere from 5-20 standards per content area. Each standard would be assigned a letter or number to show whether the child has plenty of room for growth, exceeds expectations, or falls somewhere in between.
How to Read Letter-Based Grades
If your child’s school uses a typical percentage or letter-grading system, it’s helpful to understand what each letter grade means. Most of us have preconceptions about what constitutes a good or bad grade, but it’s best to set these preconceptions aside to learn more about the true meaning of each letter grade:
- A range: A+, A, and A- grades all signify excellent performance. Depending on what the grade is for, this could mean a student put an exceptionally high level of effort into an assignment or that they’ve demonstrated mastery of a subject.
- B range: B+, B, and B- grades represent good performance. If your child scores in the B range on an assessment, assignment, or course, it means they did very well, though there’s still possible room for improvement.
- C range: C+, C, and C- grades denote satisfactory performance. In many cases, though certainly not all, students’ grades naturally fall along a bell curve, in which case, most students’ grades tend to be in this mid-range.
- D range: If a child gets a D+, D, or D- on their report card or on an assignment, it means their performance was less than satisfactory. However, this is still considered a passing grade in most instances.
- E or F: An F is considered a failing grade and signifies unsatisfactory performance. A student may get an F because they didn’t put in enough effort, or it could be because the subject is particularly difficult for them and they need some extra academic support.
How to Read a Standards-Based Grade Report
On a standards-based grade report, you likely won’t see percentages or typical letter grades that range from A to F. Instead, you’ll see a list of standards along with a letter or number to signify the student’s level of proficiency. One common approach is to use numbers 1-4:
- 4: A 4 means the student excels in regard to this standard. This indicates that a student has exceeded the standard and demonstrated mastery over the subject.
- 3: A 3 typically indicates proficiency. In other words, a student has met the standard and is ready to build on this proficiency in the next chapter of their education.
- 2: A 2 usually means a child is approaching proficiency or working toward proficiency but isn’t quite there yet. Parent involvement with teachers is a good idea to help address gaps in a child’s proficiency.
- 1: A 1 means that a student’s proficiency on a particular standard is well below the benchmark. Students who score a 1 have significant room for improvement in order to become proficient. It’s best to address these gaps proactively.
Responding to Grades
Should you reward your child for A grades and chastise them for getting low grades? It can be difficult to know how parents should respond to grades — after all, you want your child to do their best. However, research has shown that overemphasizing the importance of academic achievement can have negative effects on a child and does not lead to higher grades. Instead, children who don’t experience undue pressure from their parents to perform at a certain academic level tend to enjoy better mental health and are higher achievers.
Parents should focus on being supportive and encouraging, regardless of their child’s grades. First, focus on the positive. Celebrate your child’s accomplishments, even if they aren’t perfect. A C+ or B- is well worth celebrating if it’s an improvement on a previous grade. Also, avoid comparing your child’s grades to their peers.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for how to handle “bad” grades because it depends on why the student got that grade. For example, you may need to be more stern with a teenager whose grade reflects a poor work ethic, while a kindergartener who struggled with a certain concept or class may need consoling and encouraging above all else.
Whatever the cause of the poor grade, it’s always best to focus on positive change. For older students especially, ask them why they think their grade turned out that way and what steps they need to take to achieve a higher grade next time. Also keep the emphasis on proficiency and future success rather than an arbitrary number or letter goal. If you see your child working harder or taking other steps to improve, let them know you’re proud of their efforts.
Experience Family Support at Commonwealth Charter Academy
Parents play a key role in encouraging their children throughout their schooling experience. At CCA, we believe that a child’s education should be a team effort — this is the best way to support young learners personally and academically. That’s why we have a Family Services Department devoted to building strong relationships with families and helping them during the transition to cyber school and beyond. If you’re interested in joining the CCA community, contact us today to learn more about CCA’s family services.