Wednesday, June 7

No more grades from 0 to 10 at school

Michael Casal

How should they be?

Marta Fdez Vallejo

Elena Fernández received a 4.95 in the last Baccalaureate History exam, which prevented her from taking the Selectividad exam. «What difference was there between a 4.95 and a 5? Asks this young Asturian, who has already finished her degree. After complaining about her, her teacher raised the five tenths. “And in Selectividad I had a 9.75 in that matter”, she recalls with satisfaction. Students are no longer going to get a demoralizing 4.9 or feel the humiliation of taking home a 0, but also the pride of having a 10 on their transcript. The new education law (Lomloe) abolishes numerical qualifications in compulsory education.

It is not that schoolchildren are going to pass through classrooms without being tested on their knowledge. The debate is how the evaluation should be. The new law defines it as “global, continuous and formative”, a process that is not summed up in a number. Pedagogy experts endorse this change of course but consider that they have to be used so that families learn to focus on the information offered by the notes, not on the number.


“We are confusing evaluation and qualification. The learning process is evaluated, an exam is graded”, highlights Sylvie Pérez, educational psychologist and professor at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. “Assessment is not just giving notes. It is a planned process in which different instruments and strategies are used that involve many tests, oral presentations, group and individual work to establish how the student is progressing, their difficulties, what they should reinforce…». It measures progress with a “training” goal: to identify and reinforce your weak points. A specific exam of a subject does admit a numerical grade, explains Sylvie Pérez, which indicates the level of achievement achieved. But it does not take into account the progression of the school or the difficulties of it. Notes with numbers are necessary in Selectivity, for example.


“My son has rolled two sevens, one eight, one four and three tens.” Parents often make summaries of this type when they talk about the school performance of schoolchildren. “It is that a 7 is not the same as an 8.5, we are interested in knowing the number,” says Tania Ruíz, who has two children enrolled in primary school in a school in Valencia. “The problem is that families are left with only the number. And, sometimes, the 5 of a child reveals much more effort and progress than the 9 of another”, adds the Catalan teacher.

In Catalonia, the step of removing numerical qualifications has already been taken. Teachers can mark students as ‘Excellent Acquisition’, ‘Remarkable Acquisition’, ‘Satisfactory Acquisition’ and ‘No Acquisition’. “We saw that it made no sense to quantify from 1 to 10 as it was done until now, since it does not provide information by itself,” argue from the Generalitat’s Directorate of Early Childhood and Primary Education. «What does it mean that a child has a 5, that he knows half of one that has a 10? The evaluation is not only an instrument of certification, but also of orientation”, they defend.

“But parents keep asking us ‘yes, yes, but that, what note is it?'”, says the Catalan pedagogue. Sylvie Pérez considers that this change introduced by Lomloe is an “opportunity” for families to stop looking at the number and focus “on the progression and difficulties” of their children. At the same time, it will force the teacher to “offer more details of the student’s learning” and detect what is wrong in their classes and establish “improvement strategies”.

Many schools already include specific explanations in the notes. They note, for example: ‘Completes addition and subtraction correctly but fails in multiplication’ or ‘Needs to reinforce concepts of distance and time’.


The educational law allows to maintain the traditional insufficient, sufficient, good, remarkable and outstanding. “But the idea is not to change the numbers for a pass or a fail, but to replace them with an explanation of where that child with problems has to go, and generate an action plan that helps him learn correctly,” explains the teacher. of Didactics of Mathematics at the University of Valladolid, Belén Palop, co-founder of the teaching movement ‘Sin Notas’, which advocates a “more efficient” way of evaluating than simply using numbers. “What if, instead of giving the student and family back a test with a 7 out of 10, we gave them a single sentence like ‘You’ve got the concept of multiplication and you’ve automated the tables except 7 times 8’? Do we really think that the family or the student himself prefers incomplete information and does not give any indication on how to improve this sentence? Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to try to change to a culture of ‘what can I do to improve’?” encourages this university professor.

Palop points out that students, teachers, families and the Administration “are attracted to numerical grades” because they seem “concrete, clear, comparable and orderly”. An exam is given and we conclude with a number between 0 and 10 that measures the student’s knowledge of the subject.

But qualifying by number is not as objective a system as it may seem from the outside. The tool we use “is poorly calibrated,” says Palop. And he gives an example: «We all agree that between a 9 and a 10 the distance is much smaller than between a 4 and a 5. That means that the marks on our ruler are not at the same distance from each other . And making averages and throwing out a figure with two decimal places is cheating at solitaire », he concludes.

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