Effort grades in elementary school - could you score higher on achievement than effort?

Way back when in early grades of Elementary School in the US, I remember there being a grading system based on three letter grades of Outstanding, Satisfactory, and Needs Improvement. For each subject, grades would be assigned for Achievement and Effort.

For example:

History: Achievement - S Effort - O.

Basically, I believe that the ideas that this system represented included:

  1. Little children can’t be failures, they just have to improve (N grade). They can’t be classified as “failing” until later on, and an elementary school GPA is basically irrelevant to begin with (unless you are doing absolutely abysmally to the point where you have to repeat), especially after reaching middle school.
  2. Children should be recognized or rewarded for making a good faith effort, even if, in the end, they failed to reach the goal. Hence, they can be told that, while they need drastic improvements in their Spelling, they are trying really hard and that is good. For example, a student who earned an Achievement grade of N in Spelling but has been seen by the teacher hitting the books and coming for help can be awarded an S for Effort, and a student who requests to stay in over recess to study Spelling and has obtained an outside tutor at their request could be given an O for effort.

I’ve wondered this for a long long time. Under this type of regime, can a student receive a higher grade for Achievement than Effort? For example, Little Suzy receives an Achievement grade of O for Grammar, but an N grade for Effort because she is naturally gifted to the point that she is passing all the tests without doing any of the homework, and thus she really needs to improve her Effort (i.e. do the homework regardless of whether you need it to pass the test).

We had effort grades when I was in elementary school. I’d always get satisfactory achievement lazy-ass effort.

I used to get better achievement than effort grades.

I believe (though I may be mistaken) that elementary grading systems are decided at the level of the local school district, so the OP’s question wouldn’t have a universal answer.

Yes, but are there any instances where this has happened, or where policies would permit it?

More basically, I’m wondering about a formal definition of the case of scoring higher on achievement than effort, in the sense of what it really means to accomplish this. Does it represent a gifted slacker?

How was this interpreted? What did you understand that it meant to score high on achievement but low (relatively or absolutely) on effort? “Yeah, you’re doing great but you need to try harder.”

In my junior high school we had a number grade (1-5; 1=A, 5=F), coupled with a letter grade for effort (Excellent, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory). So 1E was the best possible grade, 5U the worst.

One semester I got a 1U in 7th grade English. Yep, A-level work, but the teacher thought my effort to get that A was unsatisfactory. Trying harder can’t possibly raise my achievement grade, but I should try harder anyway? :confused: So what did that say about her lesson plan, I wonder?

My Mom just kind of laughed at this, fortunately. The teacher was known to be a bit flaky.

I’m assuming, yes, it means you’re a gifted slacker. I used to get these sorts of grades all the time when I was younger, mostly because there was no point to trying harder since my grade couldn’t improve.

That was in grade school, but a similar thing happened in high school, where there were no effort grades. One of my teachers complained that the 104% I had gotten wasn’t high enough, and that I should have been around 109% or so. As you might guess, that raised an eyebrow.

This double system achievement/effort, seems to be geared mostly to people who don’t achieve well, I believe, to indicate to parents whether their child isn’t getting good grades because they work is beyond them for some reason or because they just didn’t do it. Apparently, though, the double system can make things difficult for the parents of the lazy slackers, as it did for mine. I as a teenager was not prepared to believe that 104% wasn’t good enough, and my parents really weren’t either, and so they didn’t really know how to react.

Anecdotal, sure, but there you go.

In high school, my report card grades for my Spanish classes would often show an A for academics, and an N for behavior/effort. The class was really easy for me, so I’d finish my work quickly then talk and distract those around me. I also had a tendency to be a bit, erm, mouthy with my Spanish teachers. They liked me because I picked up the language easily, but I did not like their preferential attention and treatment (I was never anything remotely close to a teacher’s pet) and I’d work hard to shake it off.

Now that I’m a teacher, I often give similar grades for similar reason. I have A students who get poor behavior and effort grades because they are mouthy, or distracting, or cocky, or flakey, etc.

The worst would be a 5A. You are really trying the best you can, but still failing. What is the next step?

Here’s my story:

My elementary school’s grades were S=Satisfactory, U=Unsatisfactory, and I=Improving. “I” was available only for students who had previously gotten a U, to note the improvement, and encourage continued improvement.

I got straight "S"s almost all the time. I wasn’t perfect, and the occasional U returned to an S right away. An almost perfect report card!

We did NOT have E=Excellent or O=Outstanding, and I’m glad to hear so many other systems do have them. Because without them, my entire elementary school life taught me to strive for satisfactory work. I never learned to excel.

So when I hit high school and put the same amount of effort in, and got mostly Bs and a few Cs, with just a sprinkling of As and Ds, I figured I was okay. After all, a C is average, and a B is above average, right? I knew to work hard to avoid the Ds, but I never learned to strive for As. “B” is already above average, and so I figured the As are just gravy.

That’s the autobiography of someone who learned far too late in life that “good enough” is not nearly good enough.

At the sprog’s school, effort grades are reflective of the child’s overall work habits. If the child gets a Needs Improvement for effort but an Outstanding or Satisfactory/High Level for achievement, the kid is indeed a lazy slacker. It basically means that work is frequently turned in late, the child isn’t paying attention in class, and/or having some other problem that indicates poor work habits, but is still showing satisfactory knowledge. The effort grade is given by subject because some kids like some subjects better than others and their work habits may reflect that.

These effort grades tell a teacher a lot about a student. For example, if a student isn’t doing his work in class, the child may have a problem that needs to be addressed by the parents or counselor. These grades are also important at the elementary level because bad habits need to be changed before it really matters.

On the other hand, high effort with low achievement means that the student is trying, but they’re not learning, so the teacher needs to come up with a plan to help the student learn by identifying what the problem is and proceeding accordingly.

At least in elementary school, I was another one of those lazy, high-achieving students. I generally just read during my free time in class, but sometimes teachers would send me to the library to get me out of their hair.

Yes, I was a gifted slacker. It SHOULD have, like MsRobyn says, alerted someone to the fact that I really didn’t know how to study or manage my time effectively, and I didn’t have the self-discipline to learn it on my own when I didn’t need to. What it actually did was prevent me from being bumped up a grade into material which would have forced me to learn better study habits.

The teachers all agreed that the material a grade ahead would be more challenging and appropriate to my level, but because I “didn’t try” at my assigned grade level, they wouldn’t promote me ahead of my peers. Now, to be totally honest, I was emotionally immature and already the youngest in my class, and don’t know that accelerated promotion would have been a good idea because of those things, but it would have been nice if that had been communicated to me. As it was, even in fourth grade, I could see the illogic in not promoting someone for not trying hard enough when she had already mastered the material, and I just decided the grown-ups were stupid.

Remediation or retention.

It happened to me all the time. I went to four different elementary schools and because of the different curricula, I often had already been taught the same stuff a year before. As a result, I often spent most of a semester staring out the window, waiting for the coursework to catch up to what I already had learned. Then I’d get A’s, infuriating the teachers.