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Community Comment: Is getting rid of letter grades a good idea?

There is a lot of theory about this idea, but there’s a big gap between theory and practice

I’ve been reading a lot about changes coming to our schools this fall. Students from kindergarten to Grade 9 are no longer going to receive letter grades to evaluate their performance. You won’t start seeing letter grades until you hit Grade 10.

My first reaction to this idea was ‘What?’ After reading many, many articles about this proposal, I understand the reasoning behind it but I'm not sure about the outcome long-term. Reading the Optimist online poll, I’m not alone.

It seems that’s the intent of this new grading system is to not judge you based on what you can put on a piece of paper in a given time, but what you learn over time. The challenge is, how do other people know how your work has been judged?

That said, I’m not a psychologist, I’m not an education expert, but as a marketer I review consumer behaviour and market trends. My sense is, since we’ve taken away many measures of success and competition, we’re creating a generation of expectation, not of reward.

There is a lot of theory about this idea, but there’s a big gap between theory and practice. I’m a university marketing instructor, I read lots of research reports on advertising. It’s one thing to review and analyze advertising, it’s something completely different to stare at a blank page and create it. If your study is wrong, no big deal. If your ad is wrong, you lose your client, or your job.

Letter grades might be a lot like Winston’s Churchill’s view of democracy- it’s the worse form of government, except for all others that have been tried. This new method is an experiment will take many years to determine if it’s effective. But is it worth the risk? Letter grades seemed to have worked just fine up until now.

I read an article that asked people in their 50’s what they would tell their younger self. One comment was ‘choose your habits carefully in your teens, they last a lifetime.’

Seems to me those are wise words in this instance as well.

Brad Sherwin, MBA is a long-time resident of South Delta, and has over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations and business strategy. He teaches post-secondary marketing, coaches hockey goalies and is Past President of Deltassist.