Division News Article

Changes to student grades and reporting

September 13th, 2018

Last year, principals and senior administration reviewed the language used in report cards to describe student achievement. The discussion came as a result of some misunderstanding of the word “Acceptable”. Parents might interpret “Acceptable” to mean that everything is okay and there are no concerns. However, by the definition used, it can mean that things are NOT necessarily okay and there are some concerns. This double meaning has led to some challenges in communication about student needs. 

Principals and teachers use Administrative Procedure 60-10 Student Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting as their guide to grades and report cards. Any changes to the grade scale must be in this document as it applies to the entire division. The original version of this AP was created several years ago by a team of PHPS educators and has been adjusted several times over the years.  

In their discussion about the term “Acceptable”, principals identified other parts of the grade scale that have proven to be confusing. For instance, aligning words like “Acceptable” or “Proficient” with percentages doesn’t necessarily work in every grade level or subject. What might make sense in Grade 8 Social Studies can’t be used as easily in Physical Education.

This also brought up the meanings people attach to letter grades such as A, B, C, etc. There has been little agreement about what percentage range each letter grade represents. It differs from grade to grade and subject to subject.

The use of percentages alone can come with its own problems. People are quick to do the math to produce averages, which can be very misleading. Consider the following example.

Bobby’s Average — 70%
Jo’s Average — 70%

Both have an average of 70%. If we had no other information, it would seem that these two students are the same. But look at the grades that built this average:

Bobby — 98, 95, 72, 40, 45
Jo — 60, 65, 70, 75, 80

This shows that Bobby and Jo are very different students. Averaging grades makes educators cautious about using percentages. However, when all of the data is available, parents, students and teachers see a more complete story. So despite the risk of averages, the better story is in the numbers. Now let’s look at their performance using letter grades.

Using the old grade scale, both students would average a ‘B’. Averaging is still a problem, but look at their first three marks using the old grade scale:

Bobby — A, A, B
Jo — C+, B, B

Bobby’s performance dropped 26%, but going from A to a B doesn’t look too bad and is not likely to set off any alarm bells. Jo’s performance increased consistently but the steps are difficult to see. From B to B, it looks the same and Jo might be less motivated.

It is also very important to note that giving grades at the end of a course has a low impact on improving student achievement. But feedback about their progress along the way has a much greater impact.

What we have described is just the tip of the iceberg of a grade scale discussion that fills Education journals. There may never be a perfect answer, but our lead educators have chosen to try and make things a little clearer for students and parents. Above all, they want to make sure that parents of students with learning issues, really understand the situation. The word “Acceptable” simply isn’t clear enough to describe the situation.

This chart shows how we will describe student achievement going forward. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your child’s progress in school, contact your teacher or the school principal. We genuinely value parent involvement — it really makes a huge difference!

Levels of Achievement:

  • Above enrolled grade level: Unless specific assessment activities have been performed by the students to assess skills or knowledge at a grade level above that which they are enrolled, teachers cannot accurately determine whether students are above enrolled grade level expectations.
  • Below enrolled grade level: Intervention is necessary when achievement is not yet at an acceptable level and or when the student demonstrated inadequate achievement of Learner Outcomes.
  • At enrolled grade level: The teachers’ professional judgements of student achievement are based on multiple observations and student assessment activities completed over a period of time.
    • Note that the determination of a summary grade is not simply a cumulative or averaged mathematical calculation.
    • Teacher’s professional judgment is critical in determining the grade and supersedes automated calculations.
Feedback summaries to parents are very specific to the experience and developmental progress, based on what the student can or cannot do.
Grades 1-6
Excellent Achievement that is refined. The student consistently demonstrated an in-depth and broad achievement of Learner Outcomes.
Proficient Achievement that is competent. The student usually demonstrated well-developed achievement of Learner Outcomes.
Satisfactory Achievement that is adequate. The student demonstrated a basic but partial and/or inconsistent achievement of Learner Outcomes.
Marginal At Risk. Achievement that is marginally adequate. The student demonstrated minimally acceptable achievement of Learner Outcomes.
Limited Intervention is necessary. Achievement that is not yet at an acceptable level. The student demonstrated inadequate achievement of Learner Outcomes.
Grades 7-12
Student achievement will be summarized using a percentage scale. This is largely due to the grade reporting requirements of Alberta Education for senior high courses.
At enrolled Grade Level Levels of achievement range from 50% to 100%.
Below enrolled grade level Below 50%
Incomplete When the student has not submitted all Summative Assessments for evaluation, and therefore has not demonstrated their knowledge or skills, the student will be assigned an “I” for Incomplete. The school, student and the student’s parent/guardian will have a specific plan for completion.
Withdrawal The student has, after consultation with school counseling staff and parents/guardians, chosen to withdraw from a course in which they were registered. A “W” will be recorded. A withdrawal is not an incomplete course and therefore does not require a plan for completion.