Comments about ‘Give them an A: Research shows why starting with an A grade is better for students than earning it’

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Published: Friday, June 20 2014 7:40 a.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, June 20 2014 1:15 p.m. MDT

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Logan, UT

Interesting. Perhaps worth some experimentation.

There You Go Again
Saint George, UT

Sort of like starting on third base claiming you did it all yourself when you cross home?

Sounds like anybody the DN reports on weekly?

Who knows?

Centennial, CO

Hey, it's worth a shot--especially, honestly, in inner-city and urban areas.

My HS English teacher told our honors class after the first essay, "You all got bad grades --because you didn't know what I wanted. So don't worry about 10% of your semester grade being F--because your entire grade for the whole semester will actually be what you get on the last term paper after you've had chances to practice and learn what you need to."

By the end of the term, I think all of us had at least a B--and had gotten much better at writing. I am still grateful to her not because i got an A-, but because her class helped me get jobs as a writer even today.

Riverton, UT

I'm skeptical. Sounds like another fad that will reduce expectations. If an A truly represents exceptional work then average students won't be able to keep it. Having it taken away from them through no fault of their own would be very frustrating. If standards are reduced to the point where average students are able to keep the A then it represents average work not the exceptional work that it should represent. I think the prinsiple of you get what you earn is still the best way to go.

DN Subscriber
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Everyone is special. No one will keep score. No one will be criticized. There are no right or wrong answers, about anything.

There, everyone feels good about themselves nos, so let's have a group hug!

Today's "education" system, as modified in response to similar experts and their studies over the last 50 years. With the result that American kids' ability to perform basic skills like reading and math are far below most other countries. But, liberals are happy and that is what counts any more.

Let's just call nonsense, nonsense, and ignore "studies" like this. Instead, set rigorous standards and reward those who meet them and be sure to tell those who do not that they will live a much less profitable or comfortable life.

let's roll

If the information in the article is taken literally, this methodology would make grades a measure of "improvement" rather than mastery.

If I start with an A and the criteria for retaining the A is constant improvement, I would retain an A if I began the year with a mastery of 10% of the subject matter and ended the year having shown constant improvement to a level of master of 50% of the subject matter.

If another student starts the year with a mastery of 90% of the subject matter and ends the year with the same 90% mastery level, do they get an F (no improvement) or a C or an A?

And what is an employer or college to glean from the grades? How is one to distinguish an improvement A (when the student has only 50% mastery of the subject matter and may not have the required foundation to move on to advanced levels) from a mastery A?

A software developer with an improvement A may be willing to work but without a sufficient mastery of the required skills, isn't of much benefit to an employer.

Cedar City, UT

I have often found the opposite is true. When you start a course and get a "C', it can motivate you to improve. Sometimes getting an "A" in the beginning can make you rest on your laurels.

Madison, WI

Why not give it a try??? As an educational system in the US we continue to fall behind the rest of the world. Why should we continue to keep doing what we are doing? Let's innovate and try to improve.

Cedar Hills, UT

This is 100% a joke! They, the "educationl expert" keep telling our kids "you are wonderful you are great even you got the answer wrong, AND everybody get a trophy!" This is not a good system to teach our kid, it's a brain-washing system to get more and more losers! We need give our kids some sort of RESPONSIBILITY and CONSEQUESNCE. 2+3=5, all answers other than 5 is wrong.

Orem, UT

I believe many of you may have misunderstood the point of the article. I don't believe we would need to do anything materially different to implement the findings except change our focus. Today we might say: "there are 1000 points possible in my class this semester. To earn an 'A' you need to earn 900." With these findings in mind we might say, "You all have an A, but to keep it you will have to avoid losing more than 100 points during the semester." It is effectively the same, but may be psychologically different and result in better student performance.

Provo, UT

How does this actually work. Everyone starts with extra credit, say 10 out of 0, and then watches their grade from there? Or does every assignment already get entered with 100% and then get lowered once they actually do the assignment? I'm not trying to argue for or against the system -- I just don't get how you would implement it.

Poplar Grove, UT

I think some commentators are misunderstanding this. This doesn't appear to be a "T-ball nation" idea. Lets break it down to a single test with 100 questions. The way we do it now, you start out with 0 points, and each question you get right earns you one point. If you do what they are talking about, you start with 100 points, and each question you get wrong you lose one point. It's not about giving people things, or making it easier, it's simply a question of psychology, do people work harder to keep all 100 of their test points, or do they work harder to obtain all 100 of their test points? These studies are suggesting that if we already have the points, we will work harder to keep them than we will if we start off at 0 and have to get all of them.

let's roll


As I said in my post, if the quote in the article is taken literally, all that is needed to maintain the A grade you start with is "improvement."

That is how the proponents of the study characterize it, which is much different from your characterization.

bill in af
American Fork, UT

As an educator for 38 years of experience, I have implemented this concept for many years. I use a total point system with tests counting more points than regular assignments. Each student begins each term with 100/100 points for participation. That is the same as giving each student a free 100 points equal to a test. They keep the 100 points as long as they are not tardy or cause behavior problems throughout the term. As the term progresses, other scores are added based on their efforts which will help keep their grade close to an A or it declines if they do poorly on assignments and tests or fail to hand in particular assignments. This system gives the students a positive beginning to each term and most seem to want to work hard to keep their grade as high as they can. Of course this system has little meaning to students who have little parent support or expectations at home that encourage them to do their very best. The decline of the family is why we are not succeeding as well as we can in education.

Poplar Grove, UT

@Lets roll
You're focusing on one part of the article. but this article mentions multiple studies. He(and I) focused on a different part.

Beaver Native
St. George, UT

This may help students get better grades, but it is counterproductive in teaching them how things work in the real world. In the real world, you usually start at the bottom and have to build your way up. Kids need to get used to it to deal with real life.

let's roll


I focused on the quote in the article from the research group that did some of the studies, reviewed others and made the recommendation of how to implement their findings. Seems like the crux of the article, but you're free to focus on whatever you'd like.

BTW, the mug test is silly on any number of levels. We all price stuff we're trying to sell higher than what we say we'd be willing to pay for it. Just because I say I'd sell my old bike for $100, it doesn't mean I think that's what it is worth, it means I'm hoping there's someone crazy enough to pay me that much for it. Go to a swap meet, it's full of folks who sell things at less than the minimum price they said they'd take for it.

If you implement the start with an A system and still grade on the 90%+ scale for an A, I suspect a third of the students wouldn't understand the difference, another third wouldn't care and the final third might understand and try harder at least until they fall below the 90% level.

Riverton, UT

I think you missed the point. Your example, "To earn an 'A' you need to earn 900" points out of 1000, puts the focus on what they have to "earn". You even used that word "earn". The point of the article was to shift the focus away from what they had to "earn" and put it on what they had to "avoid losing". To implement the idea your way you would have to give every student the 900 points that represent the A and then subtract points when they fail to meet expectations.

Riverton, UT

@let's rool is correct. Here's the quote from the article.

“Imagine a classroom where everyone started off an academic year with an A grade and in order to keep the grade, a pupil had to show continuous improvement throughout the year,”

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