One of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make coming from teaching in the United States to teaching in France is implementing a new (and in my opinion, quite subjective) grading system.
American Grading Systems:
1. The first system is based on the 100-point grading system, used in universities and many high schools. For anyone who is not familiar with the American System, an A is considered excellent, a B is considered proficient, and a C is considered the last acceptable passing grade–basic. Although technically, a D is considered a pass, it is definitely not anything to brag about. An F is considered a fail and designates a re-take.
- A+ (99-100)
- A (94-98)
- A- (92-93)
- B+ (90-91)
- B (85-89)
- B- (81-84)
- C+ (79-80)
- C (74-78)
- D (69-73)
- F (below 69)
2. The second American system is a relatively new, but in my opinion, effective, system. This system has been implemented across the state Wisconsin in an attempt to accelerate the new Common Core standards, and to make effective changes to assessments and grading practices. Basically, teachers develop assessments and rubrics aligning with learning targets to allow students to demonstrate their understanding and skill acquisition. The goal is to help students become more aware and active in their learning. It also aids as a guide to teachers when meeting the needs of all students. At the end of each semester, these numbers are then calculated into a Grade Point Average (GPA).
- 4 = Advanced (Can apply the knowledge/skills to new situations or teach others)
- 3 = Proficient (Solid and consistent understanding of learning target)
- 2 = Basic (Developing understanding, inconsistent performance)
- 1 = Minimal (Knowledge/skill just emerging, struggling to show comprehension)
In the first American grading system, it is very possible (and definitely not rare or unheard of) to get a 100%, or a perfect score of A+, especially on tests and projects. The second grading system requires students to go above and beyond in order to receive a 4 (ie: the philosophy behind it explains that getting a perfect score on an assessment designates a 3; to get a 4, a students need to apply those skills even further.) However it is definitely still possible to do so. Many would fairly criticize that the American system is much too easy, and in most ways, I definitely agree. The second system works at combatting this very real concern.
The French Grading System:
The French system uses a 20-point scale:
- 16–20: Very good (très bien)
- 14–15,9: Good (bien)
- 12–13,9: Satisfactory (assez bien)
- 10–11,9: Basic (passable)
- 0–9,9: Fail (insuffisant)
The French grading system is very unique, and holds the philosophical ideal that a 20 equals perfection. However, the French philosophy also implies that no one, and nothing, is ever perfect, and it is therefore almost impossible to receive a 20/20 on most assignments that are not math or multiple choice tests. In fact, 18/20 is extremely rare, and 12/20 (a low B) is considered a good score! When determining a grade, all aspects are considered: presentation, written expression, reasoning, organization, research, and even the overall subjectivity of the professor who is grading the paper. It is extremely easy to just simply give a score based on feeling; I have found that the only way I have been able to justify my scores and keep things as fair and consistent as possible for all of my students is to develop a specific rubric system for each assessment and explanations for each factor. At the university, I think the highest I gave was 17 or 18. Often, I collaborate with my colleagues to make sure our grades are consistent across the board, as the subjectivity of each professor can vastly change the score of one student’s grade to the next.
Overall, adjusting to the mindset has helped me grow as a teacher, especially in regards to a worldwide view of learning and assessing. I do not believe any system of grading is perfect, but working as a teacher abroad comes with implementing new grading systems and accurately evaluating students by whatever means possible.
Which grading systems does your country use? How does it compare to the American or French systems? Do you have a preference or an opinion about any of the three systems I’ve listed above? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.