When was the last time you received a grade as an adult. You probably haven’t and if you have you probably didn’t understand or agree with it (like my D- fantasy football draft grade errr). Well, obviously, we don’t receive grades as adults because they don’t make sense. Can you imagine if your boss said, “John you did great this year, you earned a B!” What!? It just sounds funny, but yet our entire academic career is based around letters. All of one’s hard work is drilled down to five ambiguous letters. Letters don’t tell students what they can do, they don’t explain how to get better, and they certainly are not a form of feedback. To me, students either get it or not. And if they don’t get it yet, then we shouldn’t slap a big old C on them and say good enough. We should acknowledge that that individual student isn’t there yet, but we will continue to work together until they get it.
Of course I’m talking about competency based grading. And I have heard the arguments against it, but all I really hear is that a movement to a competency based system would be too difficult. Well, I hate when we decide to not do what’s right for students because we can’t figure out how to make it right for adults. Let’s just do what’s best for students. But until then, teachers can make this happen. It starts with providing students with clear success criteria, creating an environment of “not yet”, and defining letter grades. This not only creates the environment your students deserve, but also prepares you for when someone asks you why you have so many A’s in your class. Oh and the best way to answer this question is by having your students answer it for you. Make the change, because it makes sense.