Low grades are associated with truancy and high school dropout. In that context, meaningful ways of looking at grades at the high school level include (Allensworth and Easton, 2007):

  • Are high school students passing all core courses (English, math, science, social studies)? This is one way to measure individual level success on this indicator, based on a study finding that students who failed any of the core courses in ninth grade were at high risk of dropping out. At the program level, success may be measured by comparing the number/percentage of students who achieved that benchmark in the current year to earlier years.
  • Do high school students have a GPA sufficient to make their graduation likely? One study found that ninth graders with a GPA of 2.0 or below were at particularly high risk of dropping out, whereas those with a GPA of 2.5 or above where highly likely to graduate four year later. Based on information such as this, it makes sense to choose a benchmark to aim for for all students. As above, program success may be measured by the number and percentage of students who start below and achieve the benchmark in the current year compared to earlier years.

At the program level, it is meaningful to compare results for the current cohort (those who entered the program at the same time in the current year) with those of previous cohorts.

The most reliable source of data on grades is report cards. If report cards cannot be obtained, consider other teacher reports (such as the Mock Report Card), parent or student self-report.

By Urban Institute



Source Cited

Allensworth, E. M. & Easton, J. Q. (2007). What Matters for Staying on Track and Graduating From Chicago Public High Schools: A Close Look at Course Grades, Failures and Attendance in the Freshman Year. Chicago: University of Chicago.