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Purpose of Grades in School

by Neil Kokemuller, studioD

Grading student performance in classes is sometimes one of the less enjoyable aspects of teaching. However, it is also one of the more important roles that teachers have in the ongoing educational system. Grades serve a variety of purposes, including performance assessment, motivation and administrative management.

Performance Assessment

One of the simplest purposes of grading is performance assessment. Grades serve as a formal tool to measure a student's academic performance in class. Once teachers assign grades, students receive reports showing their grades for each class. This offer students formal feedback on the teacher's view of their performance based on the established grading criteria for the course. By offering grade assessments, educators give students a chance to seek additional information or help and to make adjustments to performance moving forward.


Beyond being an informative assessment tool, grades can motivate students to behave more effectively in the learning process. On tests, for instance, ambitious students will typically put more time and effort into studying and learning because the results will be graded. A teacher's grading criteria usually serve as communication of the behaviors and results the teacher views as critical to student success. When students receive high marks, they often feel positive reinforcement and strive to repeat. Low grades can serve as a wake-up call for under-performing students.

Framed Learning Objectives

Grades also allow teachers to formulate and communicate learning objectives for a class. Grading criteria are normally established prior to the start of a class. Requirements are usually communicated to students or parents in the case of younger students. Criteria used for grading provide insight into the learning objectives and expectations for the class. Some teachers weight grades to place special emphasis on tests, homework, projects or other activities. Heavy test grade influence, for instance, shows a teacher's belief that results-based performance is a motivator of student learning because students must study and demonstrate competency on class content.

Administrative Management

Grades serve a broader purpose in various facets of school administration. Colleges, for instance, use high school transcripts and grades to assess an applicant's qualifications for entrance. Junior high and high schools evaluate grades to determine whether students can compete in sports and extra-curricular activities. This helps keep academics and activities in balance. Grades also provide one metric for assessment of student performance at grade levels or in certain topics.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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