Grades: Parent and Student Expectations vs. Reality

At the start of each year my school hosts an Open House before the first bell of the school year begins. At this event teachers talk about themselves, their classrooms, and hopes for the new school year. I usually attempt to do all this in the six minutes they slot for each period on an abbreviated schedule. Next year I think I’m going to abandon the norm and tell parents and students the one thing want to hear about most…GRADES!

The one aspect I’d like to discuss with parents is their expectations verus reality of what grades stand for on most grading scales.

The start of your Open House presentation.

As teachers we encounter students and parents with a wide set of expectations. There is the expectation that the student will earn nothing but A’s. Plus the as long as they try their hardest group. Also the we want passing grades parents and students as well. There’s nothing wrong with any of these expectations. The difficulty comes when the student experiences rigorous and higher order thinking and they earn marks that fall outside of whatever expectations they have set for themselves. In short the A student might have earned a B on a very challenging test and they feel defeated. However, this student has actually earned “Above Average” marks. Likewise, the A student might also earn a C on a challenging assessment and they feel defeated.

This graphic shows what some students will insist is their own expectations or their parents expectations or both.

The reality is we learn by struggle. If life wasn’t a challange why would we have so many common sayings about how hard life is. Life is hard then you die. Luck is great, but most of life is hard work. The struggle is real!  Every student should experience struggle. This is how we grow as teachers. This is how we grow as students. This is how people grow.

Students can still earn high marks while experiencing struggle. For the student that earns less than their expectation of a passing, acceptable grade they should feel no less satisfied.


Connect with my on Twitter @GuyCivics and be sure to check out my classroom page on 

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