Tuesday, 29 Iyyar, 5781
  |  May 11, 2021

When Grades Fail Us

Op-ed by Devorah Leah Phillips: Could you imagine being graded daily on your parenting skills such as the quality of dinner, cleanliness of the kitchen and bedtime routine? So why is my child going through this? Full Story

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💯 agree
January 17, 2021 11:17 pm

Grades don’t benefit the child at all. If a teacher has a problem with a student, she should be able to reach the parent and together work on the child’s progress

Clear idiots
Reply to  💯 agree
January 18, 2021 10:29 pm

It’s obvious you’re not a teacher… Most of the time, teachers are met with hostility from the parents. Grades are important feedback for the students to see how they are doing on their own level.

January 17, 2021 11:29 pm

As an adult, your performance “grade” matters too.
If you can’t keep a clean home, it matters. Its still important even if you don’t get graded. But the grades early on prepare you for that.
So grading isn’t a negative thing. It actually creates and teaches responsibility! Those skills are hidden in your adult life, you just can’t tell. Its why you show up to work on time, or not.
Kids like and need that consistency and organization grades bring.

It's important
Reply to  Um..
January 18, 2021 1:18 am

To know where you r at so u can get the help needed to reach goal – grades have no importance by themselves

Absolutely agree! Please take this further!
January 17, 2021 11:33 pm

Completely agree!! Thank you for bringing this up. Hopefully you can also share it with the mechanchim – internationally!!
Thank you for writing this and sharing it!

January 17, 2021 11:35 pm

I agree. This can lead kids to become not confident with themselves.

Reply to  100%
January 21, 2021 3:53 am

It can build confidence when he watches his measurable mark go up throughout the year.
Imagine the confidence achieved from breaking from a 70 to an 80 or from a 90 to 100.

So true!
January 17, 2021 11:36 pm


Reply to  So true!
January 18, 2021 12:35 am

Not black and white.
Depends on the age. Depends on how it was taught. Depends on available WORKABLE alternatives. (not wishful thinking alternatives)
etc. etc.
I know many teachers that are ready willing and eager to work with you.
P.S. Also: please don’t allow your experience’s to form your opinion about your child’s experience

January 17, 2021 11:39 pm

Wow such a great article.So so true!

Interesting post
January 18, 2021 12:14 am

Thanks for putting the spotlight on the issue. It’s not so simple. Why mark performance in any grade level, why is the question only for 6 years old, or 12 years old or twenty years old? Well, back up a bit. Grades are given on tests. So why are there tests? To ascertain whether the student (whether 5 or 50 years old) learned the material presented. Then the mentioned R. Tannenhouse had something there. If a student “fails’ a “test” did the student fail or did the teacher fail to teach? Thus, presumably RT’s approach – to reteach until the… Read more »

Great response
Reply to  Interesting post
January 18, 2021 3:13 am

To be honest, I feel like this is the only really good comment on this article (from the few that are here so far). Great how you put everything in perspective

Reply to  Interesting post
January 26, 2021 6:33 pm

Very well said, i agree 100%

I love this
January 18, 2021 12:31 am

Continue sharing light – you shine such a light it makes me feel so light just reading this

So many good questions!
January 18, 2021 12:33 am

I know that lots of schools and mechanichim try to do the best that they know and more. It’s imperative however, that they begin to take an open minded and progressive approach to chinuch, which will move them away from doing the same old that they’ve done for 30/40 years. This is all according to the directives of the Rebbe, of course, but using an open mind to Re-evaluate constantly. Doing this is key to building strong, resilient children, who will keep pushing, no matter what life brings upon them! Finally, to clarify, I’m not advocating here for yes or… Read more »

I totally agree
January 18, 2021 12:42 am

as long as it doesn’t interfere with discipline, and learning in general. I do not believe a child should be tested for memory only. Every type of intelligence should be applauded and recognized. Because every human being has their intelligence!!

Memory does not equal learning
Reply to  I totally agree
January 18, 2021 12:28 pm

Some people can be very good at memorizing but do not retain the material others have difficulty with memorizing but undertand the material and can appply it. This can vary with subject even for the same person. The ability to teach to all ranges is vital for a good teacher. Of what use is a perfect score if the lesson is forgotten?

Reply to  Memory does not equal learning
January 19, 2021 1:47 am

Despite getting mostly As in high school, I barely retained any of the information. At this point, if a child consistently does poorly on tests, the teacher may need to find another way to help the child recall the material. As others have said, there is no “cookie-cutter” child
Some are visual learners, and testing them baal peh for example, may not be the best way for them to absorb the information…

Food for thought
Reply to  Memory does not equal learning
January 21, 2021 10:14 am

You could not have said it better. The definition of learning is that the child can demonstrate what they can DO with what they have learned. Memorizing is NOT doing something with the material. While it may be more possible for some people to memorize than others, that is demonstrating one skill out of many that they have. We need to be opening up more opportunities for children to demonstrate their knowledge in different ways.

Averaging doesn't make sense
January 18, 2021 12:44 am

Many school have switched to a competency-based grading system. Grading by average doesn’t even make sense. The grades at each semester reflect the average of all grades. So, for example, if a student gets 50 percent in the first half of the semester and the tries harder and gets 100 in the second half, the grade would be averaged at 75 which reflects neither of the two grades, and surely does not reflect the effert and achievements of the student in the second half of the semester.

Yes but
Reply to  Averaging doesn't make sense
January 18, 2021 9:54 am

You can’t just completely ignore the fact that he failed by the first half. Their going to learn that they can just not do any work as long as the last few weeks they try hard

Harmful not just for kids who don't do well...
January 18, 2021 12:57 am

Grading can be devastating to kids who try hard and yet don’t do well. But it can also have a devastating effect on kids who DO do very well and are praised for it, it can make them feel that they always have to get the top grade/100% in order to be worthy in life. Damage lasts long into adulthood and keeps therapists in business to unlearn all the unhealthy things we absorbed as kids! There’s no reason to make the next generation suffer just because “it was good enough for us” like some say, because the truth is it… Read more »

January 18, 2021 1:06 am

No grades, no hard work

January 18, 2021 5:25 am

Grades are unfair. Each child should receive a participation trophy instead.

Love this
January 18, 2021 6:18 am

I love how things are shifting and I love this article. As a mom this really resonate. Thanks for being brave to bring this up! we can do better. 🤎

Effort not numbers
January 18, 2021 6:35 am

Don’t show your little kids their grades, it’s none of their business at that age, if they need help in school the teachers should contact the parents. I think the best response for parents is to tell the child, throughout their school life, that it’s the effort that truly counts not the grade.

Food for thought
Reply to  Effort not numbers
January 18, 2021 1:32 pm

But you have to teach skills to the children. If you dumb them down, then they will also get the incorrect message that they are useless. Lots of factors involved in evaluation and sending correct encouraging messages to children.

January 18, 2021 6:48 am

Would you feel the same way if your children were getting all A s?

Reply to  Parent
January 19, 2021 1:52 am

My daughter gets all As, simply because she memorizes the information prior to being tested. Yet, she barely retains any of the information after the testing is over. She spends most of her time worried about her actual grades, and most of what she learns goes right out the window after the test…

not the actual grades.
January 18, 2021 7:14 am

I don’t think its the grades themselves that are the problem, I think its the stigma connected with grades. knowing what result you got on a test shouldn’t reflect on you as a person. this should be instilled in a child by parents and mechanchim.

January 18, 2021 7:21 am

When I was in yeshivah the Rebbe instructed the hanhala to test us. Would appreciate is someone that knows more details can elaborate.

Reply to  Yakov
January 18, 2021 1:17 pm

Its because grades are not a bad thing. Its an assessment tool.
There can improvements to the system, but no need to go extreme far end of “no grades”!

January 18, 2021 8:22 am

Even worse than teachers marking grades is the chidon. Children and parents stress out unnecessarily and study for hours, only to get below the mark of being included with their friends into the shabbaton, and receiving medals and plaques. I’m not so against teachers grading marks, if that is their way of making sure the children are learning. The chidon however is another story. So much competition within friends, cousins etc only to cause complete embarrassment and feeling like failure for those kids who work hard, but unfortunately aren’t as smart as their peers and can’t get in. Its really… Read more »

Keep Chidon please
Reply to  Chidon
January 18, 2021 9:27 am

Hard work should be recognized within a merit based system rather than a raffle. It is important for smarter kids to be given challenges within the Torah canon without compromising other students in a classroom who may not be as apt for the required study. This is where Chidon and its setup pf shabbaton, etc. comes in, rather than raffles. This is a direct response to a child’s hard work and self-acquired knowledge. Not every child needs to be a part of it. In fact, if I had a critique about it, I would say that the shabbaton is far… Read more »

Sorry but no..
Reply to  Keep Chidon please
January 18, 2021 10:08 am

I have to disagree. I have one daughter that barely studies and did amazing on all the tests. My other daughter had tutors, my husband and I studied with her for hours and unfortunately her grades aren’t in the top. It’s so upsetting for children to be broken about this.. the chidon caters to brilliant children only. It’s not always about the effort the children put in.

Memory does not equal learning
Reply to  Sorry but no..
January 18, 2021 12:43 pm

Agree. Sometimes a student can be very intelligent but doesn’t have an interst in excelling in a particular aspect of classwork so justs does bare minumun and concentrates on something else and delves into it beyond what is required.

Reply to  Sorry but no..
January 18, 2021 2:14 pm

My daughter did the chidon and was way too stressed over it, even though she usually gets good grades.

January 18, 2021 8:48 am

Couldn’t agree more. Although, there may also be merit to grading, it’s an antiquated system, that isn’t as effective or comprehensive, in the big picture. We certainly need to take a step back and see the forest for the trees.

Weak argument
January 18, 2021 8:49 am

The comparison is a false comparison, and the article is written almost completely without nuance.
Helpful for bringing awareness to an issue, though.

The past vs the present.
January 18, 2021 8:59 am

Great, honest and revolutionary article. Anyone bringing comparisons to the tests and grading of the past is out of touch with reality.

In the 60’s, there was corporal punishment in all Yeshivas and in many schools. It’s unacceptable today ANYWHERE!

So too with grades. A new system must be implemented to address the damage done with the current system of grading.

Hashem yishmor
Reply to  The past vs the present.
January 18, 2021 1:19 pm

Consistency is so important!

Grading is just a system
January 18, 2021 9:07 am

When your child receives 6/10 on a quiz – that means they got 6 right and 4 wrong. Transfer that to adult life- out of the 10 things you were supposed to clean up today you accomplished 6 It is your choice to beat yourself up about those you didn’t get correct or those things you were not able to clean. I hope the comment about participation trophy was said in jest. Fun fact – every single human being in this world has a unique skill set. It is our job as parents to tell this to the child. You… Read more »

Grading is just a system
Reply to  Grading is just a system
January 18, 2021 9:30 am

Correction- perhaps they should NOT view the grade as the be all- end all

Grading is just an assessment and should be viewed as such

Reply to  Grading is just a system
January 18, 2021 1:21 pm

I don’t think teachers see it as a be all, end all.
Whoever thinks so obviously never step foot in education. (And should take an honest look at their own parenting skills because it has all the issues everyone ages on teachers!)

You remind me of someone...
January 18, 2021 9:16 am

Your brilliant aunt Adele Lebovics, obm, who didn’t tolerate systems that didn’t work. She kept so many children “in the system” thanks to her caring and thinking “outside of the box”.

Love this op ed
January 18, 2021 9:23 am

So true!! Mechanchim really need to take a new look and approach to the grading system and not just fall back on what everyone else does.

Have you ever sweated in education?
Reply to  Love this op ed
January 18, 2021 1:22 pm

Act first and then talk.

Let's help our children deal with challenges
January 18, 2021 9:35 am

Testing and grading are ways for teachers and students to see if they know the material. It cannot completely be avoided since it’s the only way a student can really see weather he still needs some practice in a certain area. We should not feel bad for students who don’t do so well in tests because I am sure they have other areas in life where they are strong. It’s like saying it’s not fair that a certain student has to know that he is less smart than another one. It’s the same complaint about why do others have more… Read more »

I totally agree
Reply to  Let's help our children deal with challenges
January 18, 2021 12:25 pm

Parents really need to instill a sense of self worth into their children. This is so important today when there are ba“h so many other children out there ken yirbu.
Chassidus teaches that every single person is key to the existence of the world and bringing the Geulah. Its not which marks you bring home on the report card as much as the mark that you make on the world around you.

Alte wisdom
January 18, 2021 10:08 am

Testing should be to benefit the student and to let the instructor know if the material was transmitted. I recall being very young when teacher told us that there were no “bad grades.” Maybe we didn’t study enough, understand the question/assignment, just made a mistake, weren’t ready to learn the material or prhaps the teacher didn’t explain it very well or the question was confusing. The best teacher I had was in 6th grade in a public school class of children ranging from a teenager who was low intelligence and had advanced slowly by repeating grades to superior intelligent sudents.… Read more »

Reply to  Alte wisdom
January 18, 2021 2:58 pm

Very well said.
100% agree.

January 18, 2021 10:38 am

Grades are not the problem, ma’am. The school, the teacher, the students, all have a part in ones education.

Yes, and
Reply to  Honey
January 20, 2021 1:19 pm

The parents play a big role in the child’s
education as well.

Grading of another kind
January 18, 2021 10:48 am

In my opinion, grading should only be done for things that ALL students can achieve, like Tefillah, Midos etc. All academics should be “ graded” and the student should immediately have an opportunity to “bring up the grade” by being given another test with all that they got wrong the first time. What the point if grading and moving on? Averaging grades is also pointless. A student who progressed is now reminded that last time you didnt do so well.

Reply to  Grading of another kind
January 18, 2021 1:56 pm

How do you grade Tefillah? By how hard they shukkle?

The only way I would grade is by how quiet they are and not disturbing others

Reply to  How
January 18, 2021 3:01 pm

As someone who has always struggled with davening, I really feel that your davening is between you and Hashem. Hashem will grade you on your davening, and the teacher can grade you on your quietness. The teachers should encourage that the students daven, but at the end of the day, my davening is between me and Hashem and no one else.

Reply to  Anonymous
January 18, 2021 6:20 pm

Your teacher encouraging you to daven will give your neshama its much needed relief and nutrition.

Reply to  Anonymous
January 21, 2021 4:04 am

At what age though…
As much as it would be beautiful to think that children internalize the concept that they are literally speaking directly to Hashem, they don’t have that feeling (and many adults too).
In fact, if the child actually felt “That Davening is his special connection between her and Hashem” then she wouldn’t be “struggling with Davening”. The fact that you were struggling, is in itself the sign that you weren’t ready for Davening to be left completely in your own hands “between you and Hashem”…

If you can suggest a workable alternative...
January 18, 2021 10:50 am

If you can’t suggest a workable alternative please save your breath.
It is so easy to point out an issue in any system and say “there must be another way” that nobody knows of.
When you have an idea that would work, then you should suggest it

Who downvoted this???
Reply to  If you can suggest a workable alternative...
January 21, 2021 4:06 am

Makes so much sense.
Having no system in place is also terrible, maybe more terrible. So without an alternative, the status quo is the best.
Or please explain

Spot on
January 18, 2021 11:01 am

100 percent agree. In the school where I am a teacher, we have no letter grades. We write comments on how students are progressing with regard to learning goals and benchmarks. Feedback must be specific and constructive. A letter or number grade will not inform of specifics.

Reply to  Spot on
January 19, 2021 9:03 am

Comments are great but how do you evaluate the child to make those comments? Against what kind of rubric?

Chanoch lenar al pi darko
January 18, 2021 11:06 am

Lets flip this on the head. Grades are great! U know for whom? For the rebbi /teacher to see where the child is at. A grade can be a private note in the teachers book to adress what this childs “grade” is . He can then speak to the child privately and the parents to work on what needs help. Btw many kids understand and even know the correct answers on test but dont understand the question based on how it was written but that is a whole different topic. Grades that r public to the classmates is questionable unless… Read more »

Food for thought
Reply to  Chanoch lenar al pi darko
January 21, 2021 10:18 am

I agree that often the questions are worded awkwardly with the result being that the child does not understand what the teacher is looking for in an answer. That is a huge problem. This should be an area that continuing education should address.

Sore Subject
January 18, 2021 11:22 am

As a student I knew the material but never did so well on tests, not because I didn’t know it, but it just so happens to be that some don’t to well on tests, luckily I didn’t have 3 tests and 4 quizzes a week so it was manageable. today BH I have three daughters who go to BR , and they are good girls who work hard, but how is it possible and acceptable that they have 3-4 tests a week and then a quiz on every subject every week, on top of all the homework they are given.… Read more »

Reply to  Sore Subject
January 18, 2021 12:19 pm

Look in the mirror and ask it if it is doing what it needs to instead of blaming it on the school.

Sore subject
Reply to  A A
January 18, 2021 4:24 pm

You totally missed what i wrote , but that’s okay .

Reply to  Sore Subject
January 18, 2021 3:37 pm

Very well said.
Most teachers don’t keep the 2 tests a week rule, and there are so many quizzes every day. It’s very hard to stay sane and healthy when I’m being piled up with schoolwork, in addition to teenage politics and drama. Homework doesn’t help me in school anyway.

College student
January 18, 2021 11:24 am

Believe me grades are important, and enforcing attendance/due dates/assignments from a young age, involving work regardless of intelligence, even more so. I’m struggling now as an adult to learn the discipline I should have learned as kid, except I didn’t, because none of this really mattered to any of my authority figures. Regarding test scores, I like the system we have in my college, where for many courses, quizzes and midterms make up a certain percentage of the final grade, but will be discounted if the grade on the final exam is higher. In other words, it can only help,… Read more »

Food for thought
Reply to  College student
January 18, 2021 1:42 pm

Your response is truly the best. Your emphasis on teaching responsibility to children and the self-regulating skills is absolutely vital. I am glad you mentioned this in this suite of comments.

Reply to  College student
January 18, 2021 3:38 pm

Wow. Very very very well said.

It's up to the parents
January 18, 2021 11:37 am

When a kid gets a bad mark on his test he feels bad and down about it when that’s the message he is getting from his parents. Tell and show your children that a bad mark doesn’t mean that they are any lower in your eyes and they will feel better.

Reply to  It's up to the parents
January 18, 2021 3:40 pm

I wish someone would have told me that when i was struggling in school.
I have moved on to get my dream job and raise a beautiful family ka’h, and my grades in school really didn’t make a difference. If someone would have told me that it’s ok, and as long as you tried your hardest nothing else matters, high school would have been so much easier for me.

You DO get graded.....
January 18, 2021 11:39 am

Ma’am, you DO receive daily grades on your parenting and work skills. If you burn the dinner, your kids will be sure to give you (negative) feedback. If you underperform at work, your boss/supervisor will let you know sooner or later (and, you may ‘fail’ and lose your job too). We get feedback throughout our lives – why not start as children when the stakes are low to prepare for the “real world”… Effort counts and performance counts too. While it is nearly impossible to assess “effort,” performance can be easily be assessed via testing. And, in a large way,… Read more »

Food for thought
Reply to  You DO get graded.....
January 18, 2021 1:44 pm

So true! We have to teach our children life skills, and life realities.

January 18, 2021 9:54 pm

I agree with all of the above ! There’s got to be a way to teach children work ethic and commitment without shaming them and grilling their self esteem from year 1-12 . That’s a lot of years :-/ Many kids are gifted or naturally intellectual and for them to always be the shining star is plain unfair .
Thanks DL 👌🏻

Defund Tests
January 18, 2021 11:25 pm

Defund tests. Defund grading.

I don't know about this
January 21, 2021 4:12 am

As far as I remember, me and my classmates learned a lot more only because of tests.
Meaning, if there wasn’t a test, we didn’t take anything seriously. Or if we wasted our time, we’d always make up for it before the test. It was like a checkpoint ensuring our learning. Honestly I would be much dumber today if we had no tests.