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