Why do we have grades?
Grades, the one part of school nearly every student hates. I remember when it was time to receive our report cards back in school. I never like it because my grades were slightly above average – mostly due to my laziness in school. Grades are important because they tell us how well we did on an exam or assignment, but is that really all? Can grades also be an accurate measure of how well someone has understood the material?
I am a bit unsure about how I answer that second question. Grades give a real score to use as a measurement for the quality of work done, but it may not accurately reflect a student’s overall comprehension. Some people (like myself) may not have the highest grades but when asked outside of the classroom, can show a good comprehension of the classroom material.
Learning and understanding should be more important than grades
According to a Washington Post article, a few schools are changing the way they grade student work and behavior. Schools in the Washington DC and Alexandria, VA areas are beginning to abandon the traditional grading system (A, B, C, D, F) for elementary students. and starting to assess how well students can apply it to the real world. With this change, a few parents became confused and upset (as would be expected). Change is hard, but in order for schools to accurately assess how well their students learn, they need to assess how well the students apply their knowledge.
If you have seen the movie, “Coach Carter”, there’s a scene where Ken Carter (played by Samuel L. Jackson) speaks in front of the school board about why he justifies the lockout. While the movie focuses on sports vs. education, the heart of the speech he says can also apply to classroom teachers, too.
Here’s the clip:
A quote from the article puts the point of education simply as this:
That’s what education is all about . . . learning and learning how to learn. And for these youngest students, it’s about learning how to love to learn.
I couldn’t have said it any better. While grades are important for assessing the quality of work, teaching students how to think and not what to think should be our main goal as educators.