Good grades are ok – but, Mastery is better!

Good grades are ok - but, Mastery is better! When I was growing up, there was nothing better than bringing home a report card with good grades on it. I wasn’t a straight A student, but I got my share of A’s and B’s very few C’s. I guess I was what you call an excellent average student. My parents were always checking my report card and questioned any low grades and encouraged me to do better when they felt that I was not working up to my abilities. Since my education time up to today, good grades are still the benchmark we use to determine if a student is going to be promoted or retained. The higher achieving students, who are in high school usually strive for good grades in rigorous courses, because they know that their class ranking among other things will determine the type of college that they will be admitted to. Good grades are something what everyone wants, and for some reason, they are just about what everyone gets. However, the two questions that I have are the following: Does everyone who gets a good grade deserve it, and Is that grade a good indicator of the person’s ability? I remember when I was a freshman in high school, and I struggled with Algebra I, I could not catch on no matter what. The teacher was great, he knew his stuff, and he did everything to try and get me through this subject. I ended up failing the class and I told my dad that I would take the class again in my sophomore year, because back then you only needed to take three years of math. He did not want to hear of it, and he made me go to summer school. In there, I really got a grasp of the subject matter. My grade was still only a C, but I really understood the material and I had mastered the content. When I took algebra two, during my sophomore year I received a final grade of an A and that was one A that I felt I really earned. I felt good about the A, but I felt even better that I really knew the subject matter. What is the point? A student can earn an A in a class for a lot of reasons. He or she may be a very hard worker and really apply himself or herself. The teacher may be benevolent and award A’s to most or all of the students, the students might cheat on tests and quizzes, or the teacher may have cooperative groups set up in his/her classroom, which allows for group work to be turned in with everyone receives the same grade. The point is that in the last 20 years, the grading system has become progressively more liberal, where teachers almost never fail students anymore. I think two of the biggest reasons why the grading system in schools has become so liberal is because of parents’ pressure, and because teachers have been told by administration that they can not fail kids. Parents who have kids in high school know of the competition that is out there to get into good colleges. If their son/daughter receives a B in a class, they know it could throw of their child’s class ranking and their child might not be able to get into the college of their choice. Teachers fear giving low grades, because district scrutiny says that if they fail too many students, those failing grades are reflection poor teaching. Society views good grades as an indicator of student success and the current brain research tell us that in order to determine if a child has mastered school related material he/she has to show that he/she retained information 24-48 hours after a test has been given. I have a friend whose son is attending Dartmouth College, who never worried about his grades and neither did his mother. He was more concerned about learning the content of the course, as the good grades came as a result of the attitude about learning. I do not believe that one should measure him/herself based on grades, but rather on how much he/she learned and remembered. When one takes a class one should always try to figure out what he/she was going to get out of the teacher, or out of a textbook if the teacher wasn’t too good. It does not matter how the material was taught. It does nor if the teacher was good or if the teacher was bad. The mastering of the content is what it counts. Successful people do not really worry about a grade, they are more concerned about what they are going to learn. Knowledge to them is sacred, and they work to get as much of it, as they can being aware that the more they learn, the more they know that they know very little! Grades create competition and that is a good thing in general. Good colleges are filled with good students, who worked hard to get where they are and who want to stay where they are. Excellent students like receiving A’s, but they know that that the grades they received are only an indication that they have truly mastered the material that was taught. The life later on will show them what they have actually learned and how are these A’s good for their future career prospects and success in life. Online education is mostly about gaining the knowledge, not the grades. Mastering if the knowledge is the key to the e-learning.
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