School simplifies semester-end feedback and gives only grades, not comments


Jenny Xu

Beginning this school year, students will no longer receive comments on their report cards after a full semester has ended.

Justine Pascutti and Sandra Liu

Beginning this school year, students will no longer receive comments on their report cards after a full semester has ended. An email sent by Sara Thorn, Associate Head of Upper School, on Nov. 8 informed the Masters School community about this change.  

The decision to change the grading system took place over the course of many months during last school year, Thorn said,  where department chairs and administrators met to review the grade and comments policies. They decided on a two-year pilot program where students would have comments at the mid-semester, and grades only at the end of the semester. 

Thorn said, “We discussed the many aspects of our grading system, and we looked at some of the research and compared other peer schools.” She explained, “Studies show that when you give formative feedback with a final grade, the formative feedback isn’t as useful because you’re already saying, ‘This is the end, this is the grade.’ So, we wanted to focus the attention on the mid-semester comments, when there is still time to make improvements to your grade.” 

Some students seem to be skeptical of the change and policy. 

Junior Jessie Xie said, “Personally I prefer having comments at the end of semesters, especially when the second semester starts almost right after the first one ends. Comments have helped me a lot to reflect on my own progress, and they allowed me to have a clearer idea on what I should be focusing on and working on in the next semester.” She added, “Additionally, I feel like having comments also encourages me to meet with my teachers to discuss my progress since both students and teachers would have clearer ideas on what the student should work more for.”

Senior Ava Bashew said, “It is not very informative to not have comments in terms of how you’re doing in the class. Just getting a grade isn’t really good enough, especially since we’ve been told to look at the comments rather than the grades before. I think knowing what you’ve been doing well and knowing what you could improve on is really helpful.” 

Thorn explained that this would be a trial period. She said, “This is a two-year pilot program, and part of the process is that we’ll be hearing feedback from folks about how it went this year, and then we will re-evaluate next year.”