I know there has been a lot written on this blog about homework and the grading system currently and the benefits/drawbacks of both. However, someone on my Facebook recently shared this blog post from a teacher who has shared her thoughts on homework and grades and the impact she has seen on her students.
Her self-described rant starts with the statement that she doesn’t like homework despite the fact that she has assigned it for the past 22 years. I think this is telling. If she as a teacher, who is responsible for her students academic success and spends arguably more time with children than anyone but their parents, thinks homework is not accomplishing its purpose, then I think we should listen up.
Her second argument is against the mindset amongst the majority of parents and even educators these days that anything below an “A” is a failure. The grading system was set up for a purpose, she argues, and that means not everyone is going to, or should, get an A. While students should be encouraged to work hard and try to do their best, everyone’s best is at different levels. Teaching students that if they don’t get an A in everything then they are failures in that area can be hugely detrimental to their success and confidence.
I very much agree with her argument. At the end of the blog she said the bar needs to be lowered, but not in a way that means we stop expecting the personal best from each student, but in that we only expect their best and not someone else’s best. I think this would actually do the opposite of watering down schools. Instead, grades wouldn’t be assigned so loosely and students could earn what they deserve and their futures wouldn’t be limited by the subjects they aren’t as proficient in. I know in high school teacher, guidance counselors, and even my parents said that colleges were looking at my grades, and they wanted to see A’s. If I got a B or two it wasn’t the end of the world, but it might limit some of my options. Because of this, teachers awarded plenty of extra credit because they didn’t want to see their students fail or be the reason we didn’t get into our dream school and pursue our dreams. This often watered down the academics, though. I remember extra credit on an exam that asked what McDonald’s newest sandwich on the menu was. That had nothing to do with the topic of the class–Earth and Environmental Science. Extra credit like this helped me get an A+ in the class, but does that actually mean I deserved that grade?
I think reverting to the thought process that these grades are here to determine how well a student masters a topic and that not every student will be able, or even should master every topic, would be beneficial for teacher, students and the rigor of academics. It is important to remember the purpose of grades and the purpose of education. One is to measure mastery and one is to help shape better students, citizens, and people.