Why is the straight A award and honor roll bad for kids?

We already know that students are not motivated by grades and yet we give awards to honor that very thing. Students are becoming grade obsessed for all the wrong reasons. They spend all their time thinking about how to do assignments and complete activities to get the “A”. Rather than engaging in the learning process they are simply trying to figure out the rules of the game that is called school. The awards further the notion of the traditional “good” student and “bad” student. Awards do not celebrate learning but instead who can follow the rules best.

Here is why I would favor getting rid of the straight “A” award and honor roll:

  • It rewards kids who know how to play the game of school. Students who turn their work in on time and fit the traditional model of schooling are rewarded.

  • Grades are symbols that are not indicative of learning. They are typically based on student’s ability to turn work in on time and succeed on a one time test.

  • Student’s grades are manipulated by late homework penalties and inflated by extra credit.

  • Grades are often times not evidence of growth that students have over the course of the year. They are an average which includes failures and attempts rather than true learning.

  • Kids are failing are often failing due to lack of motivation rather than lack of intelligence or learning.

Now some schools are moving to standards based grading where grades are indicative of learning rather than behaviors such as compliance with is good. This is a step in the right direction but it is still not the perfect answer. The best possible situation would be one where grades do not exist and school in purely about learning. Kids should be rewarded for their learning daily, not with a Microsoft Word certificate celebrating they are good rule followers and test takers.
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