Assessment Letter to the Editor

Can Competition Boost Study Habits and Learning?

February 17, 2015 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Competition has always defined our schools as well as our society.

But many school systems have decided to eliminate letter grades, thus also eliminating competition between students. Instead, these schools say that they will focus on students’ comprehension of the subject matter in their courses. It is commonly believed that this differs from the traditional education model.

As an educator, I would disagree. Technical schools have been focused on comprehension of subject matter for years. Their students’ proof of success is judged after graduation.

I’ve read that the state of Maine passed legislation in 2012 suggesting that proficiency-based education should be a model toward which all schools in the state strive. We’ve been there before. The No Child Left Behind Act promised to change our public education system for the better. We all know how that worked out.

This new program in Maine has a bite to it because it requires schools to offer “multiple pathways” to learning for all students. Like the NCLB model, the proficiency-based system sounds great, but offers little promise of enhancing our children’s prospects for success.

Schools that boast of leading the way with the newest gimmicks in public education—the elimination of grades being one—are moving with the wind.

Many schools nationwide are fighting this particular change, arguing that competition brings out the best in students: Those who want to comprehend the most study the hardest, and get the best grades they can. They know that their future success will be brighter when they do. If children simply want to satisfy the norm, become vanilla, why would they bother trying to study and work harder?

The author has taught at Newmarket Jr./Sr. High School in Newmarket, N.H. for 25 years.

Jim Fabiano

York, Maine

A version of this article appeared in the February 18, 2015 edition of Education Week as Can Competition Boost Study Habits and Learning?


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Your Questions on the Science of Reading, Answered
Dive into the Science of Reading with K-12 leaders. Discover strategies, policy insights, and more in our webinar.
Content provided by Otus
Mathematics Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Breaking the Cycle: How Districts are Turning around Dismal Math Scores
Math myth: Students just aren't good at it? Join us & learn how districts are boosting math scores.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment The 5 Burning Questions for Districts on Grading Reforms
As districts rethink grading policies, they consider the purpose of grades and how to make them more reliable measures of learning.
5 min read
Grading reform lead art
Illustration by Laura Baker/Education Week with E+ and iStock/Getty
Assessment As They Revamp Grading, Districts Try to Improve Consistency, Prevent Inflation
Districts have embraced bold changes to make grading systems more consistent, but some say they've inflated grades and sent mixed signals.
10 min read
Close crop of a teacher's hands grading a stack of papers with a red marker.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Assessment Sponsor
Fewer, Better Assessments: Rethinking Assessments and Reducing Data Fatigue
Imagine a classroom where data isn't just a report card, but a map leading students to their full potential. That's the kind of learning experience we envision at ANet, alongside educators
Content provided by Achievement Network
Superintendent Dr. Kelly Aramaki - Watch how ANet helps educators
Photo provided by Achievement Network
Assessment Opinion What's the Best Way to Grade Students? Teachers Weigh In
There are many ways to make grading a better, more productive experience for students. Here are a few.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."