Will letter grades survive?

“The purpose of education is not to sort kids-it’s to grow kids. Teachers need to coach and mentor, but with grades, teachers turn into judges.”

That’s a quote from this Edutopia piece, which questions the value of letter grades as we look towards how we might assess students differently in the future.

Although it’s unlikely your child will be bringing home a letter-grade-less report card at the end of the quarter, the authors bring up some important questions about where our focus should lie with our kids’ education.

Some highlights from the article:

  • “The old models of student assessment are out of step with the needs of the 21st-century workplace and society, with their emphasis on hard-to-measure skills such as creativity, problem solving, persistence, and collaboration.”
  • “More than 70 U.S. institutions of higher learning have weighed in, signing formal statements asserting that competency-based transcripts will not hurt students in the admissions process.”
  • “The new [competency-based] transcripts get kids focused on doing their personal best on meeting or exceeding standards rather than getting a better grade than the kid next to them… There is no longer a ‘gentleman’s C’.'”

Now, these ideas have not been widely put into practice as of yet. However, right here in Fairfax and surrounding counties, elementary kids no longer get letter grades (they get 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.).

One counterpoint to this movement: paired with very little homework and not much work coming home, parents don’t always know how their kids are doing. A common theme we see is that they assume all is well until theirchild reaches middle school, where they’re often surprised by the increased workload and long assignments. This makes the transition much more difficult.

More practically though, it may be worth thinking about your child’s relationship with grades along similar lines.

Are they motivated by the expectations of grades to achieve high marks?

Or do you feel like they’re led away from productive learning?

I’m curious to hear your perspective.