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Rethinking Honor Roll, De-emphasizing Academic Competition

If grades are going to be a thing of the past, many of the merit-based recognitions of traditional schools need to go with them.

In the current, industrial model, students are pitted against each other competing for ranking within their classes instead of focusing on progress and learning using standards as benchmarks.

Each child should be on the path to mastery which can only be an improvement of his/her self, not a comparison to his/her peers.

Learning is a very personal experience, how and what it takes to succeed varies from child to child. Having an honor roll in place that recognizes students who play the game of school well, only perpetuates the myth that ranking children based on arbitrary grades is useful and effective.

What if we got rid of merit-based recognition and ranking and encouraged cooperative, collaborative experiences instead that fosters community growth, rather than individual acknowledgement?

First, we need to consider what is reviewed for recognition:

  • GPA

  • Attendance

  • Compliance

  • Class work

None of the above actually accounts for learning, only the appearance of learning which can be extraordinarily misleading. Compliance or playing school isn't a sound way to determine mastery as these rules can't be applied universally and don't actually account for transferrable skills.

What schools, teachers, students and families need to focus on is personal innovation and mastery as well as collaborative connections that help the community thrive.

Every child does better without pressure, so a more communal approach that allows every child to be significant and grow would be preferable, allowing each child to persevere in the environment at the rate appropriate to him or her.

Although colleges do still use GPAs as a metric for acceptance, this can't be the only reason we continue to use it in our system. Eventually, if schools start to recognize that change is necessary, then the post-secondary institutions will need to adjust as well.

As education begins to shift from the old status quo, we need to continue to make decisions that impact student learning experiences in a positive and useful way. Getting rid of honor roll and class rankings will take the focus off of points and put it in a more appropriate place, the child.

How can we shift the competitive cultures of schools to better benefit student achievement? Please share

  • post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in May 2015

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