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.

5 comments:

Mrs. Tenkely said...

Yes, yes, yes! Grades are such an arbitrary measure. They show us who is best at working the system.

Josh Stumpenhorst said...

And is our system the system that it should be? If not, then grades are certainly not needed.

Anonymous said...

Nonsense, I was at a school today where they were rewarding the bad kids for being good for the day. And what did the good kids get. NOTHING.
Children should be rewarded for good grades and work...that's life...you do a good job...you get promoted...you get a raise...

Erik Pfeffen said...

I'd have to disagree. I'm a JR in High School. I have always gotten 3.0 - 3.5 GPA but this year I said screw 3. blah GPA I'm getting a 4.0! So I did, now I want to get a whole year of 4.0's. The fact I get paid for grades is just a plus. I don't get paid much, just $10 for a A and $5 for a B. I feel like if I get better grades it will be easier to get into college and to get a job. But I think the real difference between a "good" student and a "bad" student is their parents. My parents get on my ass if I drop below a C or have missing assignments! Those kids who don't give a rats furry behind usually have parents that don't care either.

Just my 2 cents on the subject.

Hello :) said...

I agree that the honor roll is bad, but for different reasons. I think it lowers kids' self-esteem. I'm in seventh grade, and the honor roll assemblies have really lowered mine. I know I can never get onto Principal's honor roll, because of PE and math. Those are impossible for me to get A's in, since I am NOT a math person and sports focus on my #2 worst skill- working under pressure (my no. 1 is math-lol).So I can never get onto principal's, but yet I'm not happy unless I do. And 1st quarter, I nearly cried during the assembly because I only got silver (I cry when I'm angry- it's really embarrassing). This quarter, I'm not getting onto any honor roll- I can't wait until that one. It's been really bad for my self-esteem. There are nights when I cry myself to sleep, because I'm such a failure at school because I didn't get onto principal's honor roll. And it's not my parents, either. When I got onto silver, they were like "good job!" and were really encouraging, and now my grades are pretty decent- it's my math grade- a D- that killed me. My parents aren't mad at me for that, because their philosophy is as long as you try your best, it doesn't matter if you get an A or an E, they're still happy with me.
Thank you for reading this, and thank you for this post.