I'm sure a lot of grandparents and parents remember when kids' sports instituted the "everyone gets a trophy" era. It was a well-meaning movement that tried to make all children feel excited about participating in a sport, regardless of their skill or competitiveness.
The thought was that some children got all the trophies and others got none of the trophies. "This isn't fair" some adults said, " We need to make the kids feel better about themselves by giving them a meaningless plastic trophy just because they were there." After all, it wasn't the kid's fault that they had absolutely no talent for the sport they played or that they didn't work hard to get better. They thought children would treasure their participation trophies regardless of the fact that the trophies meant nothing. It was a nice thought in theory, but it didn't accomplish what people wanted. Even the kids figured out quickly that if they got the participation trophy, it meant nothing. A player with more talent or a team that won got the "real" trophy reserved for winners.
Tons of participation trophies quickly ended up in trash cans.
The education system, not wishing to be outdone by the "participation trophy" sports movement has instituted their own version. It's called "equity grading" and if you don't think it's real pay attention to your local education officials as they fall all over each other using the phrase to convince parents that this approach will actually help kids learn and achieve. Watch this news story from Portland, Oregon:
Note that they say that schools that have instituted this philosophy have "more motivated students." Question is, motivated for what?
The main idea of "equity grading" is that students should only be graded on their assessment results in class. There are no grades for homework, classwork, class participation, hard work etc. Students cannot be penalized for late work or work not handed in at all. The overriding idea is that every student should get an "A" in class.
It's called "equity grading" because one of its premises is that many children come from different circumstances, cultures, economic situations with different levels of support from parents, families, communities, etc. so they should not be held to the same grading standards as other children. In fact, they should not have to be held to deadlines, hand in assignments for grades, or do homework for grades. Educators say that some kids can't hand work in on time and do homework and some kids just don't want to do classwork.
It may sound good to many folks who will say, "Well, what's wrong with that? It's not fair to hold everyone to the same standards. " Remember, we are not talking about children who are special needs and/or those who are intellectually limited. We are talking about children who are of normal or above intelligence who come from different ethnic, family, or economic backgrounds. They are children who can do the work. The theory, which claims to eliminate bias, is actually judging students in the most biased of ways, by who they are, their demographic, and not by what they do. They have virtually given up on the potential for some students to do what is required in order to learn.
In equity grading, students can either do the classwork or not, do the homework of not. It won't matter as long as they are "proficient" in skills come test time. Notice I said "proficient" not "accomplished" or "expert." Proficient means you can do the most basic skills in a basic manner, enough to get by. So, if you barely pass the test with a 60%, you are considered just as accomplished as the student who passed with 100%. All students get "A's" regardless of if they did classwork or homework, and regardless of percentages on exams.
You may say, " Okay, So? How does this hurt anyone?"
From the Fordham Institute:
When lots more students get A’s, two undesirable things happen. First, they become less meaningful as a signal to students and parents about their achievement in the class. Are they really excelling in the subject? Should they pursue advanced study? Or are they merely proficient? If so many students are truly excelling, then maybe it’s time to make that class more challenging. On the other hand, when students receive A’s for mere proficiency, we risk decreased student effort and warped decision-making when it comes to college applications, choices of major, and career path.
Second, a bounty of A’s results in student transcripts that communicate less information, including to admissions officers and employers. Everyone getting A’s only increases colleges’ reliance on high-stakes entrance exams—which many schools are dropping—and more inequitable criteria like extracurricular involvement.
Imagine this taken to its logical conclusion. Envision medical schools across the country admitting students based on extracurricular activities such as clubs instead of grades and the fact that they were proficient, not excellent, in the content required to succeed in medical school and become a doctor. Think about a medical student who has never been held accountable for doing and handing in assignments. Will that student make it? After graduation, who do you want operating on you, a doctor who worked hard and excelled in his studies or one who was a slacker and merely "proficient?" Under equity grading, you won't know which is which.
Another problem with "equity grading" and the total disregard for classwork and homework is that those who propose it assume that students will work hard to complete necessary assignments and homework even if they mean nothing to their grade. These people think students will see the intrinsic value of the work to help them learn. This is not only laughable, but it is downright stupid. Once students figure out that everyday work has no impact on their grades, they will retreat to doing nothing in class except sitting and playing on their phones. It's human nature to do the least amount of work possible if the end reward will be the same as someone else who worked hard. Ask anyone from a Communist country.
Some say, "Well classwork and homework are meaningless in the learning process." This is more silliness. Educators will tell you that the important skill practice that classwork and homework can provide is essential to kids learning. They aren't talking about "busy work" or lengthy, punitive homework with no purpose but carefully designed, meaningful work aimed at building skills. If the kids don't do it because there is no incentive to do it, they lose out.
And, how about those basic skills of meeting deadlines, using one's time wisely? Those will be forgotten.
To take it to another venue, would any sports team allow this approach? Doubtful. Why? Because practice is valued as an avenue to get better. It's an expectation. And yes, players are evaluated on practice as well as on game performance. Here's Legendary Coach Nick Saban explaining the concept of hard work and achievement versus having a choice to do the work or not:
The world is built on hard work. Unfortunately, equity grading dismisses that idea by allowing kids to skim by as "proficient." Kids, being kids, will take that option especially when working harder and achieving more won't get them better grades or into a better college than the kid who doesn't work and slides by.
A whole generation of children are being taught that work ethic means nothing. Just ask business owners and employers about how hard it is to find employees who work hard.
Why would the Education bureaucracy support this? How does this benefit them?
The State of Maryland recently released mediocre state assessment scores. Equity grading is an opportunity to deflect from those lousy state test scores as well as pretend the schools are doing a great job. Maryland educators are ready to jump into "equity grading" with both feet. At a Maryland State Board of Education meeting last fall, the main discussion was how to eliminate entrance exams for colleges and just use school grade point averages and "resumes." The grade point averages will be inflated, and the resumes will be filled with fluff. This will help with Maryland's college acceptance rate and will bolster their "Career and College Ready" pillar in the Blueprint for Maryland's future. The state will be able to claim success in that pillar with artificially inflated college acceptance numbers.
Sadly, it won't help those students achieve in college. Equity grading will soon fill the colleges with students who may have no qualifications other than the fact that they were in many clubs and activities in school. Once those students become the majority, the colleges will drop their standards as well. It won't bode well for career performance when those students graduate to go into the real world. But maybe that is the point. Don't we already have many of those students begging for the government to pay their student loans because their degree is not useful to employers?
Once again, as educators perpetrate this fraud, parents need to be more diligent and pay attention to what their children are doing in school. Grades may not mean what they used to mean. Your child may be getting an "A" but may not have achieved skills at an "A" level. Look at the work he/she is doing. Compare your child's work with his/her grade level and age.
Communities need to take a hard look at system test data while it is still available. There is no way that a system who has only 38% of their students proficient in reading actually graduates those students. Yet, many systems have test scores like the one above coupled with a 95% graduation rate. Either kids are doing a great deal of "catch up" in their last few years of high school or graduation is just another participation trophy given to students for being in school, whether or not they worked or achieved.
As with so many other Progressive constructs, equity grading sounds like kindness and the right thing to do for kids. In reality, it is just another way of assuring that our young people are not only lazy and uneducated, but delusional as well. As Nick Saban said, there is no choice if you want to be really good at something. That choice is hard work. Those students who do the hard work deserve the credit and the grade.
Maybe schools should focus on helping students learn that concept.