Like Wins and Losses, Grades Distract Parents

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photo credit: still searching... via photopin cc

photo credit: still searching… via photopin cc

Last weekend, while sitting in a pizza restaurant, the afternoon’s silence abruptly ended when several families, fresh from their sons’ soccer game, entered. To accommodate the group of approximately twenty, restaurant staff scrambled to put together several tables.

As I ate my second slice of pizza, the mood of the players changed dramatically. One parent lamented the officiating. Another criticized the coach, leading to further critiques from the other parents. Several dads criticized their own sons’ play. My heart sank when I heard one dad, “Had you made a better cross, we would’ve won?”

Seriously? I’m sure the early teen already knew his pass wasn’t perfect. Secondly, why is the dad saying, “We?” Is he really living vicariously through his son’s middle school soccer team?

Winning at all costs distracted the parents.

The boundless exuberance the young players demonstrated upon entering the restaurant was quickly replaced by an eerie solemnness. The adolescents sat quietly as their parents seemed engrossed with winning at all costs instead of with their son’s development and learning.

Next week, we have parent-teacher conferences. How many parents, like those in the pizza shop, will be distracted–not by the final score but instead by grades, failing to recognize their own child’s efforts and progress?

Learning and grading are not synonymous.

Like a won-loss record, grades are not the most meaningful way to understand growth. Grades distract parents. The feedback grades provide is inaccurate. So, instead of focusing on a singular grade, we should emphasize consistent and constant informal observations made by both the teacher and the student.

These will encourage greater growth, a better attitude toward learning and increased knowledge. What do you think?

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Reed Gillespie

Reed is a longtime educator and coach, who is passionate about progressive learning and 21st-century assessment practices. Read more of his work here. "I'm a co-moderator of #VAchat, a Twitter conversation for Virginia (and non-Virginian) educators that meets Monday's at 8 ET. Most importantly, I'm a father of four wonderful children and a couple grandchildren. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, reading, sports and, of course, spending time with family."
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