The GPA GameHere we are again at the end of the first grading quarter of the school year, and FORTUNATELY I’ve only had one complaint! In teacher terms, that’s pretty amazing. When switching to primarily student self-assessment and standards-based grading along with a growth mindset evaluation system, there will be parents who, understandably, have some trouble wrapping their heads around these concepts. Typically it will be the parents who just cannot seem to unravel themselves from the GPA competition of traditional education.

Here are some of my top reasons for discouraging this mindset:

  1. We want to prepare our students to get through college, not just to college.
    Best case scenario, winning The GPA Game (or even coming in in the top 10%) gives students a false sense of security in their abilities. Many students who get wrapped up in The Game find themselves unable to deal with the challenges (read: failures) that college presents to them. Let’s give our students tools that will prepare them to face adversity head on– and overcome it.
  2. We are aiming for long-term, meaningful learning.
    Gone are the days of filling out worksheets as fast as we can to turn them in, hoping to receive a 100% on the paper by the end of the class. We know that learning is a process, and it’s a process for which we can train our brains. The brain is a muscle that can be purposefully exercised to use higher order thinking skills. If we want to our students to be smarter, then we have to teach them how to think about their learning, how to see potential in mistakes and failures, and how to persevere through the tough moments in learning.
  3. Similarly, we want our students to see learning as a never-ending process.
    In the GPA game, grades are a means to an end, and nothing more. The Game teaches students that learning is finite, when in fact we never cease to learn. If we can turn around the mindset of The Game, then we can finally raise a generation of students who seek out learning opportunities for life. Which brings me to my next point…
  4. We want our students to take ownership of their learning.
    The Game teaches students that the teacher is in total control of their grade. But consider this: what are the things that students love to do most? Why do they love those things? Who do they feel is in control of their success when they do those things? I offer the idea that students love the most the activities where they feel a sense of ownership. Sports, arts, Quiz Bowl, chess club, all of these are activities where students feel they have a certain amount of control over their success. They can study more questions and do better in Quiz Bowl; they can practice more hours and do better in band; they can work out harder and more often and excel in athletics. If we put students in a place to take ownership of their learning, instead of relying on a teacher to assign a grade to a paper or completing a task with the minimum amount of effort, then I believe we can defeat The GPA Game.
  5. In competitions there are losers, but in my class, there are no losers.
    This one goes out to Concerned Parent. This one is all about tough love. If you refuse to step out of the game and focus on real learning, then you must come to terms with the fact that in a competition someone has to lose. But, if you do want to step out of that mindset and into the world of real learning, then you will see that no one loses in my class.

Do you have any great ideas for breaking away from The GPA Game? If so, let me know in the comments!


Buena suerte,

Profe C.