Midterm Marks: More Comments!


Midterm Progress Reports: Before and After

While the student body only received a percentage or a letter grade last year for their midterm reports, adjustments to the layout have allowed for (much appreciated) comments.

Late October usually marks a stressful time for students, the reason being because it is when the first round of midterm report cards come out. Some students are happy with their marks (others, not so much,) but its ultimate purpose is to give students an idea of how they’re performing in school, and if necessary, provide guidelines on improving their academic performance and adjusting their work habits. The layout of midterm marks has largely remained the same since its inception, but Associate Principal of Academics Mr. W. Collins decided to make some alterations to the reports for the 2016/17 academic year.


Traditionally, all students received a letter grade, and Grade 10s or above also received a percentage. However, the changes mean students in Grade 8 and 9 now receive a short comment on demonstration of understanding in class – which is reflected with either a “Consistently”, “Usually”, or “Needs Improvement”. Grade 10s now only receive a letter grade as opposed to a percentage, and no changes have been made to senior students (i.e. Grade 11s and 12s continue to receive percentages). In order to find out more about how students felt about the changes, I interviewed a few people so they could offer their thoughts on the new progress reports.


How are your midterm marks? Are you satisfied with them?


Oliver Ma (New Grade 8): Yeah, [I’m happy with them]. I think my parents are happy too. I have a lot of “consistently”, which is the highest grade.

Christopher Bong (Returning Grade 9): I’m satisfied, but I can do better.

Abhijeet Sharma (Returning Grade 10): I’m satisfied, they’re good.

Jerry Ding (Returning Grade 11): They’re acceptable, but not the best I can do.


Would you prefer a comment over a percentage?


Oliver: There aren’t comments or percentages, but I like the “phrase” system because if you are failing, you don’t know how badly! Also, you won’t feel [disappointed] when you’re one percent away from an “A”. However, I would at least like a comment, so they can tell us what to improve on.

Chris: Sort of, a phrase just reflects on how you behave and learn in class, but it doesn’t reflect what you have learnt.

Abhijeet: [The comments] are good, because you actually know where you’re lacking. Letter grades don’t tell you that. It’s just like: even I know I failed that course. Tell me why!

Jerry: For Grade 11 and Grade 12, I definitely want percentages. But for Grade 8 and Grade 9, comments are better, because obviously, they’re not going to have lots of tests before midterms – it’s only been a month. So I don’t think their grades will actually reflect how they’re going to do this year in that course. Comments reflect more.


Do you think midterm marks are important?


Oliver: I don’t think midterms are important, but the end of term report cards are.

Christopher: Not really, I don’t think midterm marks are very important. In my old school, I used to receive a mark at the end of each semester. Having too many marks would make teachers stressed because they have to submit them, and that ultimately affects us.

Abhijeet: Yeah, because you actually know how you’re performing and what you need to improve. It’s a pointer for you to know where you’re going before the actual report comes out.

Jerry: They’re not important from a whole year perspective, but they are important to tell you how you’re doing at the beginning of the year – how you’ve started this course.


Do you think midterm marks are accurate?


Oliver: Only if they’re good! Joking aside, yeah, I think they’re accurate.

Christopher: Not in this context. It just reflects the core values more than anything, it cannot accurately portray my learning from an academic perspective.

Abhijeet: They’re accurate except for one. We did one quiz [for computer programming] but I did well on it. I’m not getting 100% in programming, I know that!

Jerry: They aren’t accurate. Teachers should also scale marks if the whole class is doing really badly.


How would you improve the progress reports?


Oliver: I would improve it by keeping the phrases and adding comments.

Christopher: I would like both a comment and a percentage at the same time.

Abhijeet: I would prefer more comments; comments are always good. On the day the reports were released, there were no comments, but last Tuesday, I was just checking the reports, and realised it kind of looked different. So I clicked on it and there were comments for some reason.

Jerry: I would say comments reflect more [on student progress]. If possible, I would like both a percentage and a comment.


Overall, the students I interviewed welcomed the changes, although I did notice a common theme of support for more comments. They all agreed comments more accurately reflected a student’s than a percentage, letter grade, or phrase. In the future, feedback from students will be very important in ensuring the midterm progress reports are as helpful and informative as possible.