The idea of assigning a letter as a means of measuring a student's learning is really kind of crazy if you think about it.
The trouble is, we don't usually think about it. We accept this as a "normal" part of school...because it's such a common practice, it feels normal, right?
But think for a moment about what that letter really represents. Think about report card grades: condensing a whole term's worth of learning into one symbol. Doesn't that strike you as a pretty outrageous reduction?
And that doesn't even touch all the other stuff we cram into a grade besides actual student achievement. Often teachers include things like effort, participation, attendance, and even behavior in this grade. Some teachers mark off for students not putting their names on their papers. Some mark off for students not coming to class with their materials. Some mark off for students turning in their work late.
The problem is, none of these things really have anything to do with what students have achieved.
Learning ought to be the key concern, not the grade in and of itself. But grades are often held over students heads this way. ("If you don't turn your assignment in on time, you'll lose 10% of your grade.")
If grades are intended to really demonstrate what students have learned we need to rethink how we generate a grade. And the first thing we need to do is remove all of this other clutter that skews the meaning of the mark. The grade should only be a representation of students' learning. No effort points. No participation points. Just achievement.
This means teachers need to be clear about what they expect students to learn, and design assessment tasks that actually measure what matters, not just what is easy or convenient.
What do you think? I'm curious how students, parents, and my fellow educators respond!