Date of Award
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Education (EdD)
Education/Leadership in Urban Schools
Joseph W. Check
This study explores how seventh grade students in an urban school district make meaning for their teacher-assigned report card grades. A great deal of research has been done on report card grades from the perspective of teachers and administrators, but few studies have examined what teacher-assigned grades mean to middle school students. This qualitative study attempts to develop an understanding of the meanings attributed to teacher-assigned grades by 56 seventh grade English Language Arts (ELA) students in an urban middle school in Massachusetts.
Three major research questions were addressed: 1) How do 56 seventh-grade English Language Arts students in an urban middle school make meaning of their teacher-assigned grades? 2) What do 56 seventh grade ELA students in an urban middle school believe about their control over teacher assigned grades? 3) What evidence, if any, can be found supporting a relationship between attribution for success or failure and the academic performance of these students?
A set of students was observed receiving third quarter report cards. Then 56 students responded to a prompt asking them what they thought their report card grade would be and why they thought that. Two focus groups of students were recruited from the 56 students and were asked to respond to vignettes describing various scenarios relating to hypothetical students and grades. Analysis of data revealed patterns of attributions. The most frequent attributions were to work completed or not completed, behavior, and compliance. Students did not attribute grades to mastery of skills and content.
Recommendations for future research include more investigation of this topic through the lens of critical social theory to determine the effects of systemic acculturation, power dynamics, effects of hidden curriculum, and individual teacher bias on how students understand or fail to understand the relationship between their mastery of skills and content and their teacher-assigned grades.
Moore, Margo Joan, "What Academic Grades Mean to Seventh Grade Students" (2015). Graduate Doctoral Dissertations. 214.