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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Student Success Debate

Four years ago I found myself in the middle of a debate with a fellow teacher about whether or not one of her students was successful in her classroom. I was trying to point out that her child was successful, and she didn't see it that way.

“So let me get this straight,” she said, clearly agitated by the debate. “If Brian gets A’s on all of his assignments because he worked hard and did his best you would consider him successful right?”

“It depends,” I replied, “If the A’s represent a true picture of his understanding of the content, showing he has grown as a student, then yes, he is, without question, successful.”

“Ok, so how can you say Elizabeth is successful when she is getting C’s on her assignments when she was a C student last year?” She asked, in a tone that had just a hint of victory coming though.

“Because last year, despite getting C’s, Elizabeth worked hard and grew leaps and bounds in her understanding of each subject area, especially in Reading, where she jumped three grade levels in her comprehension. This year she is also getting C’s, but she is working hard, and has consistently shown an understanding of the material.” I continued, “So how can you say she is not successful when she has shown growth all year?”

“Easy,” she retorted, “C’s do not point to success!”

“Don’t they? Let me break this down…Does she work hard?” I asked.


“Has she been learning all year?”


“Have you been able to see the growth in her learning?”


“So why is she not successful?” Now the tone of victory could be found in my voice.

There were really two things being debated in our discussion, what constitutes as success? And do grades tell the whole story?

More to come...

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