What happened to the ‘A’?

For years, students have received letter grades assessing the material they have learned throughout the year.  In theory, each letter grade indicates the amount of knowledge learned.  (I think it goes without saying that it’s a flawed system that is deeply rooted within our educational system.)  However, at some point in the past 5 – 10 years the grading paradigm has shifted greatly.  From my own personal observations, the A no longer represents excellence or the ability to relate learned material to real world experiences or even in other classes.  An A is the only option for many students.  If they don’t receive an A the first time around then they don’t try again, many just move on.  Students believe they have failed to “master” the content.

The A has lost its spark.  The A has lost its spunk.  The A has lost that little something extra that makes every student proud of their work.  Instead, when a student doesn’t receive an A on an assignment or a final grade, they feel as if they have failed.  How did this happen?  When did students start to feel that the A meant average or was expected?

I blame us…the teachers. Not the students, not the parents, not the system, but the teachers.  And I don’t think we can get the A back to how it used to be.  In my opinion, the reason so many people are calling for a new assessment system other than grades is due to the fact that the A has lost its charm.  Failing is perceived negatively instead of a way for students to learn and grow, which in turn has made the A the ONLY other option for students. Forget D through B, those are still failing grades in many students eyes.  Why did this happen? What’s the solution? Do letter grades work?

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2 Responses to What happened to the ‘A’?

  1. I agree that we are the cause, but I think that we have the ability to fix it, too. We need to re-educate students and parents by making it clear what is average or minimal mastery and that an A represents more than that.

    It won’t be easy and it will be especially since so many teachers still give an A for “on grade level performance”. But, the best things are never easy, right?

    • lhmiles2 says:

      Very true. I personally believe that the letter grade could still work if we could re-establish what each grade meant…perhaps tweak the numerical space between each grade. Grades are just one of the many things that schools have lost sight of lately.

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