In previous blogs, we discussed potential difficulties with giving grades for elementary level work.  We provided grading options.  Today we will look at two more drawbacks to evaluating students' work by awarding letter grades.

Most children are lazy when it comes to school work.  They want to expend the least amount of effort possible to get through those pesky worksheets so that they can get on to what is more important to them, namely playing.  They like letter grades, not because the grades reward them for their efforts, but because it signals completion of a task.  For example, it takes minimal effort to memorize a list of spelling words for Friday's test.  The test is dictated, the words spelled, the grade given - and the words promptly forgotten. If getting an "A" or "B" on the spelling test is the goal, then there is no motivation to master those words.  The child is happy because he received a respectable grade, even though actual learning may not have happened.  It is easier to memorize for the grade than to learn for life.  

Some children (mostly girls) love filling in worksheets.  It is busy work that provides a sense of accomplishment.  "See how many pages I did today."  Completing pages does not guarantee learning. 

In these instances, the grade encourages satisfaction with busy work and minimal effort.  It also allows the child to do less than his or her best.

Mastering skills takes time.  It takes effort.  Getting a grade often signals to a child that it is time to move on to the next topic whether or not true learning has occurred.  This is not to say that children don't want to learn.  They love to learn - about things relevant to them.  Delight-directed learning is another topic entirely, and one we won't cover at this time, except to say that there are skills and information that a child will eagerly embrace, whether a grade is involved or not.  Conversely there are those topics that a child approaches, hoping to get through as quickly as possible, and receiving a grade signals no more effort has to be expended.

 Next week we will discuss grading high school level work and awarding high school credits.