Grade Focused Students

Reading An A+ student regrets his grades raises a complex issue that I feel we should be discussing in schools:

The system teaches us that if you get ‘As’ across the board, you’ll be successful. And if you fail a course, you’ll be labelled incompetent or hopeless. These pressures force students to regard education as a mere schooling tenure where the goal is to input a sufficient amount of work to output the highest possible grades. We sacrifice learning for schooling.

Reading this, I can’t help wondering how many of us in education know this is the reality but continue to operate in such a fashion that promotes it.

Why is that?

But I also wonder how much of this is perception versus reality. In other words, how much of the pressure for As is ghost pressure that students assume is coming from parents, colleges, schools, teachers, etc?

Regardless of both, schools are filled with grade focused students with grade grubbing, fixed mindsets when we should have schools filled with learning focused learners with growth mindsets.

As we’ve known and said for decades (without perhaps doing),

We can’t allow learning to become passive. We need to teach students to learn how to learn – to become independent, innovative thinkers capable of changing the world. (Gill)


  1. Ryan,

    I have been struggling with this same thought for quite sometime as an administrator, but the level of discomfort has become even greater as my own son has reached high school. Being a competitive person, he has his sights set on what it will take to get into competitive colleges and sadly, for him, that means getting A’s. He has already figured out what it will take to achieve this mark with each of his teachers. In some classes, he can pull this off with minimal effort while in a couple of others he has to spend a good deal of time. However, there is no instance where I see him being engaged in a course because of a love of the content and the authentic learning tasks that he is involved in. He is simply “playing the game of school” and I am not sure what this will accomplish in the end.

    • @Patrick

      I wonder how many parents see the same thing. My guess is a lot. The question this raises is should we be concerned. I don’t know. I can’t fault students for this mindset – it is something we as a society encouraged.


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