Why Getting An “A” May Not Be Good Enough

As we move towards report cards, midterms, and the end of the semester, it is natural that we all look at our children’s grades to take a temperature on their progress. If your child is failing or not doing well, this is an indicator to get support. However, when hearing that their children are getting As or Bs, many parents think, “I don’t have to worry. My kid is doing great.” That may very well be true. However, here are four reasons why you shouldn’t take As and Bs for granted.

1. Grade inflation is rampant: In a 2017 study from “Inside Higher Education,” the average high school GPA was 3.38, and according to the National Household Education Survey, 81% of high school students get As and Bs. Just because you are getting an A or B doesn’t meet you understand content deeply. This is very noticeable when your child takes a standardized test that is statistically normed. You can argue that a test doesn’t indicate everything or that your child is not a great test-taker. However, the reality is, your child’s standardized test scores are indicators of what they were able to retain and truly understand.

2. Low expectations are tolerated: In Amanda Ripley’s bestseller, The Smartest Kids in the World: and How They Got That Way, Ripley surveyed 202 foreign exchange students on the level of difficulty of the classes in the United States compared to other countries. About 90% of the students said their classes in the U.S. were easier than anywhere else they’ve studied.  You may ask, “How can this be when parents are so involved?” Many parents in the United States are involved with their kids— with clubs, sports, fundraisers and many other things. However, their involvement doesn’t often include questioning whether the curriculum is sufficiently challenging, especially if their students are getting high grades with minimal effort. If your child is working really hard and getting Bs, that should be better than a kid getting As without having to really work for it.

3. It’s Too Much Work to Give Below a B:  Several years ago, I taught Advanced Algebra in a very good school. One of my students who didn’t put in the work should have scored a C. My colleague told me to do whatever I could to give him a B-. “But he doesn’t deserve a B-,” I protested. “He deserves a C.” My colleague said, “Do you want to create more work for yourself? Do you want our supervisor questioning why you can’t instruct that student well enough to get a B? Do you want the parents calling you? Do you want to bring this school’s rating down? Give him that B- and save yourself the work.”

4. Later in life, “A” students don’t do as well as “C” students do. Popular business author Robert Kiyosaki’s 2012 book, Why A Students Work for C Students and B Students Work for the Government, tells a surprising tale. Later in life, “A” students typically don’t have the level of success or creativity that “C” students do. They are more prone to rule-following, are afraid to fail, and take fewer risks. This is why some of the most financially successful people (including U.S. Presidents) were not “A” students, but “C” students or didn’t even finish school. In the business world, among the most famous are Bill Gates, creator of Microsoft, and Steve Jobs, creator of Apple.

So, what is the lesson here? If your children are getting high grades easily, find ways to challenge them, both in and out of school. Focus on developing critical thinking, creativity, grit, and problem-solving skills.  Building these skills will do more for them than any letter grade will.


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