Commentary: Should Students' Grade Be Public?

ByABC News
November 29, 2001, 1:21 PM

B O S T O N, Nov. 30 -- Should students be able to grade each other's papers and announce those grades aloud in class?

That question is now before the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in a case brought by Kris Falvo of Tulsa, Okla., who says public grading made her son vulnerable to teasing by his classmates.

While the case has legal implications, it also raises some important issues for child development experts about the possible negative effects of public grading practices. We asked one leading expert for his point of view.

Grades are a blessing and a curse. Most students still rest their self-esteem on the grades they get no matter what parents or teachers say about how important it is "doing your best" or "trying your hardest." I am not in favor of publicly posting grades for a number of reasons:

If we are really trying to teach kids to learn, to work hard, and to understand the material, grades may not reflect what the student knows or his/her capabilities. This may be because of the way a teacher grades (e.g., some refuse to give A's; some grade on a curve; some make certain tests impossible and let kids know they may throw out the worst grade). It also may be that some kids are just not good test takers. Some have learning disabilities or attention deficit disorder. Some have very high anxiety in testing situations.

Sometimes a child has been out of class for a while or fallen behind, and drops in his or her grades. The underlying reason, e.g., an illness, problems at home, emotional problems, may be hard enough. The public announcement of grades may only compound a problem.

Kids may use the public announcement as a means of scapegoating, teasing and other forms of bullying. It is not right to give them this kind of ammunition in the learning environment. Getting a poor grade is demoralizing to many kids. Being picked on for it only makes matters worse.

Some kids are overly perfectionistic and driven. These type-A personalities drive themselves nuts over anything lower than an A. Public announcement only increases their internal sense of pressure.