The quest for straight A’s

A'sIn Sunday’s (12/9/18) New York Times Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton and the author of “Originals” and “Give and Take” and the host of the podcast “WorkLife,” wrote a compelling piece titled “What Straight A Students Get Wrong

For those of you who know me well I’ve been waiting for this research my entire life!!!  Seriously, I’ve been very open about my own struggles in school as a special education student who graduated in the bottom half of my class at Worthington High School in 1991.  This morning I called my mom to share that I’d had a plan the entire time and now some experts see my path as the path to greater success in life.

Obviously, that’s a stretch.  But the author’s point is that in striving for straight A’s we are often teaching students more about skills of conformity and meeting the expectations of the teacher than we are really teaching the necessary life skills for the future.  I see both sides of this argument. I believe that students need to learn to meet the expectations of their teacher just like I must meet the expectations of the Board of Education if I want to stay employed. I also believe we all still need to learn to meet deadlines, strive for excellence, etc.

I also see Dr. Grant’s point.  If the future is really about creating, about being able to adapt to rapid constant change and about collaborating with empathy, our current system of grading in school is unlikely to teach those skills.  Grinding towards all A’s is likely to help with college admission and potentially with college costs (which are both important) but the downside to the quest may be as great as the reward.

At tonight’s (12/10/18) Worthington Board of Education meeting we’ll be discussing our Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and College Credit courses.  It’s an interesting discussion. Our hope in Worthington is that we offer our students a broad array of advanced options and that our students will challenge themselves in courses they are passionate about.  We want our students to take risks and thus we don’t honor traditional valedictorians at our graduations because potentially that disincentivizes students to take risks in the classes they schedule.

Dr. Grant’s commentary should make us think.  I’ll have to ruminate on it but I’m now attempting to convince my mom that I was ahead of my time.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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One thought on “The quest for straight A’s

  1. David Miller says:

    I’m giving a copy of this article to my AP Lit students today. Perseverating over grades has prompted many students to miss the point of learning and growing.

    I also think colleges of education and teacher prep suffer from the malaise of conformity. Too often success in education—from teaching to administration—is rooted in maintaining the status quo. That’s how one advances through the system. Visionaries challenge the status quo and aren’t satisfied with incremental changes, which too often are superficial and short-lived.

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