It seems all of us probably have realized that real work, learning, and/or achievement are probably never completely be measured by a grade or a score. Although we know scores and grades have a place, how does one truly transcend them?
Let’s take the life of a student, regardless or age or level, and analyze the system of grades and scores vs. what we all know really matters. Once again, think of your own experience as a student. Was your work, learning or achievement really accurately measured by grades or even scores?
Don't’ get me wrong. I am not advocating that we don’t give grades or pay attention at all to scores on tests. I think we all know that inherently there is probably a better system, but, for one reason or another, we’ll have to live with our current system of grades (A, B, C, D or F), or even percentages or #’s on any standardized test.
Also, please don’t think that I would ever advocate for something that is not competitive or that doesn’t have value attached. Indeed, no matter how much we evolve towards more relevant and individualized performance-based assessments and evaluation, we will always have systems that require a standardized score in order for comparison and aptitude.
Whether it’s the military, law school, medical school, graduate school, college acceptance, etc., there will always probably be a need for some sort of score, GPA or something similar to compare students.
However, I don’t think grades and arbitrary scores do justice to truly quality and exceptional work They will never do justice to what any of us do that is truly professional, distinguished or even amazing.
So, what can we do? Well, does anyone think that their grades and scores really ultimately defined their careers as adults? What did? Well, it was getting attention from others professionally for quality work.
It could have been winning an award, winning a contest, getting other professional recognition, being involved in something beyond the norm, etc. What defined our resume – whether it was for getting into college or getting a job – was what we had done that was exceptional and that could be demonstrated.
Most adults are aware that once in an interview, or on the actually job, no one asked about our scores, our GPA’s or anything similar. But they wanted to know could we perform and produce while generally improve the organization in general.
For 21st century students, there are many ways to be defined that go way beyond and definitely TRANSCEND grades and scores.
Regardless of one’s talents or career goals, here are just a few ideas:
· Focus on becoming the best you can at something – no matter what it is, it’s really hard for others to not recognize, accept, value or even utilize someone who is truly good at something.
· Publish & Have a Web Presence – whether it’s a blog, YouTube, Social Media or other, you can create a name for yourself and your work all on-line without having the blessing or approval of any teacher, class, school or organization.
· Compete – enter contests and competitions in your area of specialization or interest. It can be almost anything (writing, photography, film, music, art, technology, speaking, culinary, mechanics and more). There are endless contests and competitions for everything going on somewhere on-line all of the time.
· Get involved and network – if you get to know people who are professionals in your area of interest, good things will happen. And with Social Media, you can now connect with professionals and experts globally almost instantly.
· Create something new – whether it’s a company, an organization, a blog, an event, etc. The world is now full of people who begin things and innovate everyday. Not every idea becomes famous. But one never knows.
· Get training and education outside of school – internships and other job-related experiences were once reserved for the seniors in college. That’s no longer the case. high school students and younger can now volunteer and get early, on-the-job training in any number of areas. One just has to ask and show some initiative.
For teachers and educators, what does this mean? Does this mean we don't have to be or shouldn’t be concerned with our students’ scores on standardized tests (AP, SAT, ACT, ASVAB, Standards Tests, etc.)? No. Does this mean we can ignore our students’ scores on benchmark exams? No. Does this mean we do not have to deal with comparisons our student test data with that of other teachers, schools, etc.? No.
But what it does mean is DON’T BE DEFINED by them. That’s right. What bright, hard working and professional educator would put their entire career on the line based on a standardized test? Well, certainly not me nor the professionals that I’ve come to respect.
Once again, we’ve realized that quality and relevant real world student work cannot be only judged by a test score. So, how can it be judged? And, in turn, how can you be judged? Here are some ideas:
· Media attention – nothing speaks to validity and exceptional than that of newsworthy. If your students’ work or project (s) make the New York Times, will a test score really matter?
· Contests and Competitive Opportunities – if your students’ work wins awards, it speaks volumes. Scores are competitive, but contests and very are real, public and valid as well.
· Do things that are so engaging, interesting and unique that students, parents and community are raving about you and your program. If students are loving what they do and talking positively about it, that will trump scores and grades anytime. Indeed, the scores and grades will probably take care of themselves.
· Lead Professionally – it’s not enough to just attend training. Become an expert or extremely passionate about something and then share it with the world. If you are an educator who trains, excites, motivates or improves other educators, then you have credibility and value. It’s hard to get that from a grade or score.
· Change the World. That’s right. Do things that are truly new, different and even transformational. If you create educational experiences that go beyond things that can be measured by a test, then what does the test really matter? In other words, think about how your students can tackle and potentially solve real world problems. Maybe the next generation of cancer cures will come from a high school classroom. Test scores rarely really change a student’s overall learning value. But new, different and transformational educational experiences often do.
Naturally, whether one is a student or an educator, there are even more ways to potentially transcend scores. Grades and scores are a game we all must play and it helps to be good at the game. But in the 21st century, and in an economy that is truly becoming global and high tech, they certainly won’t be enough to be competitive. And there are bigger and better ‘games’ to master that are designed to truly demonstrate skills, talent and what is exceptional.
(photos courtesy of Foter)