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I'm watching CNN 10 and they are talking about grades in school. and I don't know how can you tell the difference between grade as your score and grade as your year.

In Michigan, students who were on track to advance on March 11th will remain on track and be promoted to the next grade.

I think this one is definitely about year. but are these too?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our chancellor has said that their grades can`t be hurt in anyway.

In Chicago, student`s grades cannot be lowered by distance learning. They can only stay the same or be improved.

Administrators are still deciding what to do about grades.

Only difference I can tell is 'grade' and 'grades'. But I don't think that's how you tell the difference. You can tell by its context? or is there some rule that you can tell? Are these sentences all referring to 'grade' as in Second grade, Third grade? or is it about score(marking)?

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As you've surmised, the first example you've given refers to the students' class years, and the second to their scores. In American English, we use the word "grade" for both, and telling the difference comes down to context.

There are some collocations that can clue you in one way or another. A student is in a grade as in class year. A student gets or receives grades as in marks. A student can have grades (marks) plural, but is only ever in a single grade (year). Only grades (marks) can be improved or hurt. If we were talking about class years, we would talk about a student moving to a new grade.

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