My son, a high-school junior, has had low grades all through school because he never does homework. When he does, it never gets turned in to the teacher. He always gets good grades on his tests, but he also has behavior and attendance issues and gets zeroes when he is not in class. Next year, his school district will be switching to mastery grading. I don't really understand if this system will help or hurt him. -- Worried


The grades that children have been receiving in school in recent years are not just based on how well they know a subject and how they do on tests and quizzes. Other factors are often included, like behavior, attendance, doing homework, extra-credit work and attitude. Therefore, it is often difficult to have a true picture of how much children are actually learning.

The new trend in grading is toward mastery grading based on test data. This grading measures how well children are learning the curriculum mandated by the Common Core State Standards. Separate marks are given for attendance, work habits, attitude and citizenship. Some school districts do factor homework into a small percentage of the mastery grade.

Mastery grading puts a lot less emphasis on the areas where your son is weak, so you are likely to see improved grades from him. While his grades may be better, you need to be aware that his bad habits (not doing homework and poor attendance) could cause him some difficulty in college.