What's in a grade? The multidimensional nature of what teacher-assigned grades assess in high school

Bowers, Alex J.

Historically, teacher-assigned grades have been seen as unreliable subjective measures of academic knowledge, since grades and standardized tests have traditionally correlated at about the 0.5 to 0.6 level, and thus explain about 25–35% of each other. However, emerging literature indicates that grades may be a multidimensional assessment of both student academic knowledge and a student's ability to negotiate the social processes of schooling, such as behavior, participation, and effort. This study analyzed the high school transcript component of the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) using multidimensional scaling (MDS) to describe the relationships between core subject grades, non-core subject grades, and standardized test scores in mathematics and reading. The results indicate that when accounting for the academic knowledge component assessed through standardized tests, teacher-assigned grades may be a useful assessment of a student's ability at the non-cognitive aspects of school. Implications for practice, research, and policy are discussed.


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Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice

More About This Work

Academic Units
Education Leadership
Published Here
August 15, 2013


Keywords: Grades (scholastic), grading, academic achievement, standardized tests, multivariate analysis, student evaluation, correlation, high school, core curriculum, non-core curriculum, art, physical education, social studies, grade point average, GPA. Recommended citation: Bowers, A.J. (2011) What's in a Grade? The Multidimensional Nature of What Teacher Assigned Grades Assess in High School. Educational Research and Evaluation, 17(3), 141-159. doi: 10.1080/13803611.2011.597112