Why Your Kid’s Grades Wont Matter: Part Two

Why Your Kid’s Grades Wont Matter: Part Two
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A few weeks back I shared with the education world the provocative statement: Grades are Dead.  If you haven’t had a chance to read Why Your Kids Grades Won’t Matter: Part One, I highly encourage you to check it out.  Read on for part 2.

Now it would be fair to think “Ok, well clearly there are some flaws with the grading system, but since it’s still the standard method, we’re going to stick with A-F grading, which is at least the safe choice.”

Hmm, interesting point…and I can understand your desire to lean towards safety.  After all, this is a student’s future we’re discussing here.  Yet, just for fun, let’s challenge the assumption that A-F grades are the safe choice.

For many schools this is how they will continue to measure their success, only to realize later that its inaccuracies created a culture that doesn’t aim towards true learning, creativity, and resilience, and although it got some of their kids into college, it left many of these students at a career dead end, and thus A-F grading is in fact not the safe choice, just the familiar choice, and dare I say, the risky choice.

Some might think it’s the safe choice because to put it in the words of dollars and cents, grades are the currency that college admissions offices operate on with a little high stakes SAT testing to seal the deal.  Historically, this was true for sometime, but as grade inflation has become the norm in most schools, grades have become much less reliable.  Still many colleges start the admission process here, because students and schools show up with the same currency.

Keeping with this metaphor, if high grades are the currency, yet grade inflation is an issue, then it holds true that today’s inflated grades just don’t “buy” you as much college education as they used to.  Look on any top tier college’s admission site and you’ll read about how they look beyond grades, because even colleges know that this is no longer a reliable means of determining whether the student will be successful.

Ultimately, I think many schools will continue to perceive that it’s safer to keep the traditional form of A-F grading, perpetuating what I call the old model: study, memorize, test, and sort.  Everything from bus schedules to teacher unions were designed around this old model.  For many schools this is how they will continue to measure their success, only to realize later that its inaccuracies created a culture that doesn’t aim towards true learning, creativity, and resilience, and although it got some of their kids into college, it left many of these students at a career dead end, and thus A-F grading is in fact not the safe choice, just the familiar choice, and dare I say, the risky choice.

The walls that surround our established method of assessment are crumbling.  The outside world is taking over and grades matter little compared to your ability to master The New Model.  A’s are nice to have, but not necessary.

Let me provide a different way to think about it.  When I was a child I loved going to Chuck E Cheese.  Now if you’ve never had the chance to visit this fine establishment then you’ve missed out on greasy pizza, and an animetronic band of musical rodents.

Who Wants to Party like It’s Your 8th Birthday?

Of course, the biggest feature of Chuck E Cheese (besides the sticky feeling on the bottom of your shoes by the end of the night) are the vast quantities of carnival games that spit out prize tickets.  The hope is that by the end of evening you can exchange all your tickets for a cheap prize.  Sounds kind of silly as I think about it now, but as a kid in the world of Chuck E Cheese those tickets were valuable, as they haphazardly and with slight accuracy measured every kid’s carnival game proficiency, or at least their parent’s generosity to keep the game tokens flowing.  Of course, no matter how many tickets you had accrued at Chuck E Cheese, they were worthless in the rest of the world, because the rest of the world was operating on a different currency.

The ATM of My Youth

Many of us still operate on this same model, collect as many tickets (grades) from the carnival games (teachers) and at the end of the evening, you can collect a prize (a career).  Clearly for some students this works, especially with generous parents, but it doesn’t take into to consideration that the rules have changed and it’s now possible to get the prize at the end of the night without playing all the games.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that every A-F grade is always inaccurate, or not a representation of learning.  What I am saying, is if we understand that it’s inaccurate and not measuring what we want to measure correctly, then we need to find a better system…because in the meantime the world that doesn’t care about A-Fs is gaining momentum (more on that in part 3).
So what do I mean by all of this?  The walls that surround are establish method of measuring ability are crumbling.  The outside world is taking over and grades matter little compared to your ability to master The New Model.  A’s are nice to have, but not necessary.
So what’s The New Model you might ask?  I’ll get to that in part 3 of Why Your Kid’s Grades Wont Matter?  Subscribe to our newsletter and you’ll get in conveniently in your inbox.

Author: Andy Aldrich

Andy is a founder of Learn[ed]Leadership as well as a school administrator at Punahou School in Honolulu, HI. In addition to pontificating on ideas in education, Andy stays busy chasing after his daughter and impressing his wife with his big muscles.

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