Thursday, February 19, 2009

O for Effort, S for Achievement? Or Should It Be The Reverse

Confession: In Elementary school, when grades were Os, Ss, and Us (Outstanding, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory) and given in two columns per subject, I received a lot of mixed reviews. The first column recorded achievement, the second, effort. And I got - in my third-grade-mind - a TON of crap for getting Os in achievement and Ss in effort. Later, when As, Bs, and Cs made their debut, the same split continued. I could bring it home, but dammit, I just wasn't working up to my potential.

(Mom - you read this - that's accurate, right? I'd hate to think I've been incorrectly remembering this bedrock story of my nature for all these years.)

Is it a negative reflection on my work ethic that, even at the tender age of 9, I didn't see the value of bending over backwards when a simple arm movement would do the trick just fine. Some call it lazy, I call it efficient. I wasn't some rock-star genius, but I seemed to do just fine with a certain level of effort and more effort was only warranted when needed or when I really took an interest in something. I think I'm just following the basic laws of physics.

Apparently, however, the world is ass-backwards on this effort/achievement split as 'Students Pretty Much Expect B's For Breathing.'

I think this is where the effort grade has ruined our culture. It's a consolation prize: sorry little Johnny, you're papier mache greek god just wasn't that great and you can't do pre-algebra, but you tried SO HARD, so here's something to make you feel better. Whaa?

One college senior says:

"I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade," Mr. Greenwood said. "What else is there really than the effort that you put in?"

"If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?" he added. "If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher's mind, then something is wrong."
What else is there besides effort? ACHIEVEMENT? RESULTS? The correct answer, maybe? If you put in your best effort and you get a C, congrats, you're a C student. Bonus, you could still be president (if you're from an oil-rich, well connected family, anyway). You should not get an A for effort. That's the wrong way to reward struggle.

The linked-to Jezebel post asks whether we're too soft AND too hard on kids: too-hard coming with the focus on grades.

Well, let's focus on the actual Achievement part, right? Skip the letters completely. Does little Johnny know ANYTHING by the time finals come around? If not, no dice. If so, then he should be awarded a mark or an evaluation consistent with that achievement.

1 comment:

Doug J said...

I agree. Let's try how this works in the real world: How about if I just put a lot of effort into making your car, even if it comes out with only 3 wheels? I put in the effort, so you should pay me for the car anyways! Ugh.