Monday, December 5, 2011


Elementary schools rarely give out letter grades. The reasoning is to encourage kids to do well in school without having the stressor of grades, to feed their natural love of learning and help them to enjoy school.
Of course there has to be some sort of keeping track of a students progress, so typically parents receive a report card a few times each year.
Most teachers give some form of "grade" on the top of the paper, be it a star, a smiley face, or a number. Occasionally teachers will give a percentage on papers, but many more frequently use a 1-4 (or similar) "grading scale" that the show the kids. 1 being below standard and 4 being exceptional. But this just as easily causes stress as letter grades do. And, like with letter grades, teachers never seem to be on the same page.
In middle and high school students learn to understand that they will have to work harder for some teachers than for others. That every teacher grades differently and hold students to different standards. This concept isnt easy to grasp for an elementary student. Josie is only in 2nd grade. She is an exceptional student. And its not just me being partial, I swear! The first time I met her I realized very quickly that she is definatley above average for her grade level. She is one of the oldest kids in her class which may give her a slight advantage, but most of it is just natural intelligence. She can easily read most 3rd/4th grade books. She picks up a new task quickly and seemingly without effort and rarely has to be reminded again. So I know that she should be frequently getting the highest possible marks.
But shes not. Shes bringing home almost all 3's. But in looking through the work, its all perfectly correct. Yet she isnt getting 4's. Michelle asked the teacher at conferences what Josie could do to improve her school performance and get 4's. And do you know what the teacher said? "Oh, she really cant get 4's, none of the kids can." She went on to explain that the highest number she will give out is a 3, if they were getting 4's they would already be in 3rd grade.
This bothers me. You are hanging a number in her face and saying "This is the best you can be, the highest grade you can get" and then turning around and telling her she will never be good enough to get it.
I could probably let it go. It annoys me, but I could get over it. I know that teachers differ in their grading styles. But its bothering Josie. And that bothers me. She feels like she is getting "dumber" because she got all 4's in 1st grade and now she is getting all 3's in 2nd. She is petrified of 3rd grade because she thinks she will get 2's.
There isnt a lot to be done about the whole situation, really. All we can do is re-assure Josie that she IS smart and is doing everything to the very best of her ability, and explain that some teachers just have different rules, it doesnt make her dumb. And hopefully make sure the teacher tells her the same.


If you use a reward program in your classroom, please be considerate in what "prizes" you are giving. Especially in a developmental therapy classroom where many kids have behavior and hyperactivity issues, a giant tub of cotton candy isnt the best idea.