“A” is for Ax Murderer

Another student take on Zander’s giving student’s an automatic “A”:

"May I axe you a question?" Astro's Got an Axe! by tohoscope


Bob is still looking for his A

Grades in middle school are controversial, especially now that students earn credits to be promoted to the next grade level. Ask a teacher at my school to “give an ‘A’” and their response is likely to be one of confusion, disbelief, laughter, or even anger. Administrators will tell you that grades should be used to measure student success and communicate progress. Unfortunately, many teachers use grades to communicate a very bad message and focus on “principle.” “Its the principle of the matter,” exclaims a colleague. “If you give an ‘A’ to a student who does nothing in your class, what kind of message are you sending the kid who works their butt off?”

So it goes back to measure and comparison (see chapter 2). Giving an A is not about allowing students a free ride and telling hard working students that it is all for nothing. Rather, it is eliminating the “anticipation of failure” and allowing the class to focus on what is more important; learning. It’s all about placing everyone on a level playing field (pardon the competitive sports analogy) and saying, “you already have the grade, what’s next?” It’s likely that the response will involve a feeling of relief and willingness to explore.

Ashley’s always reaching for an ‘A.’

However, I think the next step of giving an ‘A’ is just as important as giving the ‘A’ itself. Teachers who feel that giving an ‘A’ would eliminate student accountability will like this step the most. Requiring that students predict how they have earned the A before they have actually received it, helps them develop goals and builds intrinsic motivation. It also helps them see the possibility of being successful, something many have given up on.

Interested in seeing how I felt about this in October, click here. – Noel Nehrig

And my erudite response:

Grades are a bit like religion. There may have been a point at some time but it’s gotten lost in all of the noise and people are very scared to consider what to do if grades/religion had never existed. In the classroom, has the point of all the effort gotten lost to pursuing a grade? I mean, just like religion, isn’t all of this effort suppose to amount to something intrinsic, some good that goes beyond measure?

Grades are institution solution to communicating student progress and/or position in the A-to-F continuum within the classroom. There the measure, not the point. But i’ve seen instructors at all level quibble looking to seal up any possible loophole that a student might use to game the grading system. At best a grade is an approximation that may or may not be related to student progress fulfilling course requirements. In the end, it’s what we carry in our heads and hearts that matters more than this imperfect approximation. Funny how only those who excel and those who feel besmirched care so much about grades. What’s up with that?

Wk 1 Reading- “A” is for Ax Murderer by Noel Nehrig. http://web.me.com/noelnehrig/The_Blog_Prince_for_EMDTMS_MAC/2010_MAC_OCD_Wk1/Entries/2010/2/6_Wk_1_Reading-_%E2%80%9CA%E2%80%9D_is_for_Ax_Murderer.html retrieved on 2/9/2010

Astro’s Got an Axe! by tohoscope. http://www.flickr.com/photos/tohoscope/182444838/ retrieved on 2/9/2010

Stone mason by sk8geek. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sk8geek/3917647300/ retrieved on 2/9/2010

Pretty Princess Picking Her Nose by Pink Sherbet Photography. http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/3295969599/ retrieved on 2/9/2010

One Comment

  1. joe.bustillos

    Noel’s concluding comment:

    The Last Word…to yo Mutha!

    Wow! Grades a religion? Holy cow! The problem is all the sizing-up our country does in terms of education. We compare ourselves to countries that function completely differently from our own. Let’s face it, not all kids are cut-out for college. Nor should they be. I think we prevent a lot of students from succeeding by forcing the issue of school and college. If we allowed them to excel earlier in the trades/professions that they were interested in, they probably wouldn’t be dropping out of high school with no idea what they are good at.

    How does that have anything to do with grades? Well, grades tell us whose good at playing the “game of school” and whose not. We like measurability. It starts by comparing countries, then states, districts, schools, teachers, and finally students. I don’t know “what’s up with that,” Joe.


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