Why All Students Should Get Straight A’s

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4.0 GPA
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So you’re probably wondering why the guy who trumpets no grades is now saying all students should get straight A’s.

The man who runs the Teachers Throwing Out Grades Facebook group, co-moderates the #TTOG Twitter chat and writes books about eliminating traditional grades now wants every single student on the planet to get an A in every single class.

What could possibly motivate someone who calls the GPA “quite possibly the most dangerous tool in education” to now contend that straight A’s on a report card for all students is a good thing?

It won’t be long before colleges turn away from the GPA, and straight A’s will no longer be necessary.
The answer to the straight A’s question is simple: Giving every single student straight A’s on his or her report card is tantamount to creating no-grades education.

Wait, what? Sure, it might seem insane, but all things considered, it might just be brilliant.

4.0 GPAs all around

At their foundation, Assessment 3.0 and the no-grades classroom are about creating a conversation about learning, without the fear of grades. Many teachers are moving to no-grades classrooms, built on narrative feedback and the SE2R model.

Without fear of a bad grade, students focus on learning. They become self-evaluative, independent learners, who participate willingly and take pride in showing what they know. Still, their teachers are often forced by district mandates to put grades on report cards, which undermines the no-grades philosophy.

Imagine spending 9-12 weeks engaged in amazing conversations about learning, only to interrupt this enriching experience by placing a letter grade on a report card, reducing students’ work to a cheap label.

Suddenly, groups of students who collaborated on learning and spoke openly about progress and worked together to improve themselves are segregated by grades and grade point averages.

Of course, this makes the job of the college admissions dean quite easy. The 4.0 GPA student is welcomed, while the 3.0 or, gasp, the 2.0 student is shunned.

Enter the straight A’s report card philosophy. Teachers continue discussing activities and projects and encouraging independent learning, and when report card time arrives, every single student receives an A. Everyone ends the year with a 4.0 GPA.

Seniors apply to colleges and admissions deans around the world are inundated with 4.0 GPAs. All students are the same.

Assessment must change

With all students now standing on equal ground, a paradigm shift is required. Assessment must look different. The attempts at measurement and the labels no longer serve a function.

College administrators will be forced to eliminate the GPA as a factor for evaluating enrollees. They will have to review students’ work. They’ll be forced to talk to applicants.

It won’t be long before colleges turn away from the GPA, and straight A’s will no longer be necessary. In fact, the report card will become obsolete. But what does this leave?

Simple. Assessment 3.0 and the no-grades classroom. Now, that’s a beautiful thing.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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