Letter Grades at Veritas

person hikingIt is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. – Sir Edmund Hillary 

Letter grades at Veritas are not the simple result of number-crunching: each one is a carefully considered message from the teacher about how to continue the student’s journey of education.

But this single letter does not stand alone; it comes with a written narrative that is more than commentary. The narrative, both written in reports and spoken at conferences, is the very basis for each student’s letter grade.

Why narrative?

Teachers look to see certain skills and understanding emerge in each class, and the best way to talk about these is through words. Even on daily assignments, Veritas teachers craft feedback to focus on specific areas of strength and growth. Beyond summaries like letter grades or percentages, teachers give preference to precise words. Letter grades are meaningful mainly as symbols, standing for a complex set of skills and knowledge a student is in the process of mastering. Words about how to improve are the real road map to growth.

On evaluations and in semester conferences, then, it is the results that count, not a gamesmanship of numbers. Mathematical perfection is not the goal — in such a case, school would be pointless. Rather, the teacher looks for a story of continual growth. What mastery has a student shown, as reflected in the “hard data” of tests and quizzes? Has the student shown a sense of wonder and depth of inquiry? Have they thought seriously about the issues raised in class? Met challenges head on? Sought help when struggling? Inevitable also is the teacher’s self-assessment: how have I (and how can I) best serve this student on his or her journey?

What does an A mean? What does a D mean? The answer is in the narrative. And the narrative, both on quarter reports and in semester conferences, is not the end of a conversation between the teacher and family, but a continuation. Personal growth is always a challenge: in and out of class, we are here to support our students through this process.