Grades Hinder Achievement: Part 1

Why do we make the decision to educate our children?  What value does education have in our society?  What is the goal of education?  Schools originated thousands of years ago, and although they were different then the schooling that students receive today, it’s purpose was the same.  Historically, the purpose of education is to teach our children how to survive in the world.  As humans have always lived in groups, in order to sustain those groups, the elder members of society needed to teach the necessary skills for survival to the young . . . to keep the group going.  If we look at the purpose of schooling and it’s design then grades have no place in education.  Imposing grades on students not only goes against the initial needs for education, but it actually limits a student’s ability to reach their full potential.

Let me give you two examples that demonstrate the problems of using grades as a measuring tool for student achievement.

In elementary school, a student is struggling.  He is not reading at grade level and is having trouble understanding the concepts in math.  The student is evaluated on writing samples and math tests.  The student performs poorly on these tests and frequently receives F grades.  The teacher marks the problems the student did wrong on his math tests and makes grammatcial corrections to his homework.  The student sees his F grade, becomes discouraged, and never looks at the teacher’s remarks.  This pattern continues throughout his schooling.  His improvement never goes beyond minimal.  He is consistently labeled a “failure.”

A second student performs extremely well in school, the teacher praises the student constantly and tells the parent that their child is doing a great job.  Because the student outperforms other students the child frequently receives A’s and relatively low feedback on assignments other than GREAT JOB!  They do well, but these students have no more improvements to make, they know what it takes to earn an A and they do the required amount but never advance further in their learning.

The two examples take place in classrooms all over the country.  Grades deter student achievement.  It does have its benefits, but I truly feel that overall it is hurting our children.  I have worked with students of all ages as a tutor and found that academic achievement and the desire to learn occurs much more rapidly when students are not evaluated, but are encouraged to learn and improve.  By seeking improvement, no child is labeled a failure and no child stops learning.  As educators, we need to seriously think about using grades as a tool to evaluate student achievement, if we are to meet education’s true goals.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of Grades Hinder Achievement in an Upcoming Blog Post

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