Should ''effort'' in school be rewarded more than ''achievment?''

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Bottom line: College policy apparently mandantes a 60/40 grade weighting for freshmen, with 60% being for effort, and 40% being for achievment. A couple of professors didn’t follow the rules, though, and were canned.

Not a “great debate,” but wouldn’t mind hearing some opinions.

There’s may ways to measure ‘acheivement’. It could be results compared to potential, or results compared to a fixed scale, or results compared to other students. All have their inherent benefits and flaws. However, given their fixed ‘effort-acheivement ratio’, I think the subtelties of this would be lost on the administration of the college in question.

“We’re sorry your late mother’s surgeon didn’t know how to perform the procedure; but he tried so hard in medical school!”

“The Austrian bobsled team won the competition easily. Too easily. They were so well prepared, they didn’t even have to try. So we’re awarding the gold medal to Jamaica because they put in so much effort and had so many obstacles to overcome.”

I’ve recently heard some debate about “social promotion”. It used to be that in primary school if you did not reach the minimum requirements to move into the next grade, you had to repeat the grade you failed. I’ve heard that some school administrators believe this causes emotional damage to children, so they promote the ones who did not learn the material anyway. But then what happens? Theoretically, the lessons in a higher grade build upon the lessons learned in the lower grades. If the previous lessons weren’t learned, then how can they be built upon? It seems to me that the students who failed fifth grade would then be set up for failure in the sixth. Are they to be promoted anyway? It seems to me that this would apply to college freshmen as well. If someone fails an algebra class, how will he pass advanced algebra or the classes that come after?

I think that effort is laudable, but not gradeable. If a student shows outstanding effort and fails a class anyway, then perhaps there is a way to help him learn the material. Maybe he just needs more time, or repetition of the class. If a student can get a passing grade without demonstrating knowledge of the material, then what’s the point of going to college? Just to get a piece of paper? How is this grading system fair to those students who do earn good grades?

Not rewarded, but perhaps used to determine ‘studying efficency’ and maybe to be a red flag to signal possiable learning disabilities when you have a low achievment/high effort student. Even w/o LD it might be a signal to the student that their may be more efficient ways to study and perhaps he should look into them.

OTHO high achievment/low effort can be looked at to help find better study methods.

And on the other side of the fence, where does that put students who don’t have to (or don’t seem to) expend a great deal of effort to do well? Will they be marked down because they didn’t put forth the effort, even though they did well? According to that formula they would be. That’s assinine. Feel-Good U needs to rethink it’s position.

I’ve got to say “Milwood Motley” seems like a Dickensian name for one of the professors.


Social Promotion only happens in the lower grades. In my county in FL, a child is socially promoted if he fails the grade for a 2nd time, or this would make his/ her 3rd retention. This, however, only applies in non-benchmark years. In my experience as a middle school teacher, the biggest benchmark year is grade 8. If a 16 year old 8th grader does not make the benchmarks, then she is a 17 year old 8th grader (We have one at my school this year). At some point, the opportunity of the Career Schools in this area are offered to these overage students. The student in our school refuses to go.

The Career School is where overage students can go, catch up in an accelerated program to their proper grade, and learn a trade. I don’t know if they get a regular diploma or a GED. I also don’t know what happens if the student does not succeed there. I do know I have never seen one come back from the Career Schools.

In reference to the effort/achievement thing, sometimes you have kids that they aren’t all that bright, but they are hard workers (I had one last year). Do I give them A’s? No, but I will make sure that they do not fail my class. Usually they either have high F’s or D’s, so I will bump them to the next highest grade (D or C, respectively). Since the minimum requirement to pass my class is D’s every grading period, I feel good knowing that the student will pass, but the grade reflects the student’s achievement level and effort put into the class.

For you parents out there, is my policy fair?

Carm6773 - You left out some information. What grade/subject do you teach? You mention students that “aren’t all that bright but are hard workers”. What I worry about in simply promoting them is, as Johnny L.A. says, the following year’s learning is based on the building block of the previous year. If you promote a student who hasn’t obtained a certain degree of proficiency now, how do you expect them to catch up later? Are these students who will never “get it”? Please give us more info.


Earlier in education, I think effort should could for more than it does later. Especially when you have things like phys ed and art, which not everybody can excel at. As long as the students are trying and learn what they need to, whatever that is, that should probably be enough.

The rest of the time, no. Effort should compliment achievement, not replace it. Not everybody is going to get 100 on the big tests, but the students who try hard and do okay deserve more credit than the ones who coast. My high school had grades for attitude-type things for that reason: your effort didn’t show in your numeric grade, but it might give some context. The attitude grades didn’t count for much of anything - I doubt colleges paid them attention - but keeping effort and achievement separate was probably a good way to go.

Once you’re talking about college, achiement should count for a lot more, though effort still has its place. Like probably everyone else, I had to take some classes in college only because I was required to and they were of no interest and no use to me. How do I put this… if I had tried in them, I think that effort should have been rewarded. :wink:

One other point about university-level education…if a student puts in 100% effort and still isn’t capable of acheiving a satisfactory standard, then why were they accepted onto that course in the first place?

Rewarding effort, in and of itself, also, and paradoxically, devalues it.

I teach an AP English course. Every year I have a handful who have never been in an honors English course, and one or two who are coming straight out of “sheltered” classes for our English-as-a-second-language learners (though that is often a poor discription, since many of our “ESL” students already have several African or middle Eastern languages. I have a student this year who speaks Urdu, Farsi, and Hindi. Isn’t that cool?) Anyway, when these kids come to me, terrified after the first couple days of school, I tell them flat out that they are behind. That the course is going to be harder for then than for anyone else. And that I won’t take this into consideration when I grade their work. However, I also tell them that they will pass–barely–if they try on every assignment and do a good job on every chance for an “easy” grade (which is true–the class is balenced that way.). And I tell them that they will catch up, but it will take them most of the first semester, and that when they seem to be getting better, that they can be confidant that they are.

Kids really respond well to this speech. They want to improve, and they want to know that when their grades rise, it isn’t because their teacher feels sorry for them. I do make sure that they know I notice their effort–I do a lot of cheerleading and handholding–but I fight–and I think usually succed–to resist the temptation to have a different grading scale for the kids I know are trying.

At the same time, you could argue that my class has an element of “effort” grading because there are easy grades, and they are enough to almost pass–so it takes only a little success on the hard stuff to at least get a low C. However, my easy assignments are not fluff–they all serve a purpose in my master plan, and they all teach something–if all you do are the easy assignments, you will learn quite a bit. So, no, I don’t think that effort ought to be heavily weighted in the classroom, especially not in college or in a college level course.

I teach 7th grade Reading. My subject is technically not required for a student to pass to the 8th grade (Math/Language Arts/3 other subjects will pass you) because they are placed in my class if they have low percentiles on the Norm Referenced Test. For example, if I student has an 11th percentile, then 88% if the nation scored higher than he did. I have students from 44%ile down.

Therefore, I may have a student that isn’t bright (low IQ, but not low enough to qualify for a program), but busts her ass everyday. I, personally, would not feel comfortable failing that student. She is making it known that she is trying; it’s not her fault she isn’t as bright as the kid sitting next to her (which usually is one of the brigher kids in the class, I tend to pair them up).

In my program (Spalding Reading Method , in case anyone cares), as long as the students make an effort, they make gains. I added up all my points of gain and loss on my 2003-04 students, and I made 1100 points of gain. Most of them went up a level on FCAT and are not in 8th Grade Reading. I’m happy with that, because that new Reading ability will help them achieve in their other subjects.

As I view it, American colleges implicitly do grade more for ‘effort’ rather than ‘achievement’. My personal experiences have shaped such a view. A typical lower-level college course has the following grade assignment: A - 90% & +, B - 80 to 90%, C - 70 to 80%, D - 60 to 70% else F. The grade is determined by the following course components:

Final Exam - 20%,
Quizzes - 10-15%,
Assignments - 10-15%,
Midterms - 50-60%

So, in theory, if a student aces all midterms and finals, but doesn’t turn in a single assignment or attend the recitation quizzes, the student won’t even get a B. Of that’s an extreme case, but a very similar thing happened to me. During my freshman year Physics course (which was typically feared as a weed-out course), I slacked with regards to assignments and weekly quizzes, but consistently scored in the top 98 percentile in all exams. I received a ‘D’. I’m not complaining about it now. Just illustrating that colleges, as it is, award for ‘effort’ rather than ‘achievement’.

Carm6773 - Can you explain “points of gain”? I’m not trying to be combative, I’m just interested.

As for your students - are they then promoted to a similar type of class in the 8th grade, or will they be expected to have all the same knowledge as everyone else when they pass your class? Basically, will these students be in a remedial class their entire school career? And if this is so, if it’s obvious they will never be able to suceed in college, do you feel that vocational training is a good idea for them from high school on? It seems to me, when I was a child there were more vo-tech schools and courses. Although it might not seem fair to pigeon-hole students as academic failures, at least they could concentrate on something at which they can be more successful.


Some great points have been made in this thread. Ever since this issue of social promotion came up, it’s bothered me. I agree that in some cases effort should be rewarded at least equally to acheivement. However, in most cases, I think the achievement is the point. Even in the early grades. As Johnny LA said, you do ultimately have to know the material. How long do you let that slide?

Another point is how do we measure effort? Acheivement is easy to measure and there’s a huge body of research on how to do it effectively. However, the effort measurement tends to be subjective, particularly as the students get older. I would have gotten significantly worse grades if effort had been a component. Honestly, I didn’t work very hard. I was lucky that it was easy. But, the work I do often isn’t documentable (?). For example, when I write, I just think about what I want to say and formulate the paper in my head for most of my working time. Then I sit down and write in one draft with very few revisions. That’s what works for me. How in the world did a college expect professors to measure effort? It’s not uncommon for professors to only see their students during lecture.

I forget some of you don’t speak teacher :slight_smile: . Let’s say a kid was in the 11th%ile last year, and after a year with me, he went up to the 41st%ile. That would be 30 points of gain. If the same kid dropped to the 6th%le, that would be 5 points of loss.
This is only NRT scores. FCAT scores (levels) are completely different and reflect the statewide benchmarks, which for us are evaluated in the 8th grade. A student has to be at level 3 or above in Math and Reading to show proficiency. Most of my kids are level 1 or 2. By improving the %ile scores, the FCAT levels go up as well, so they can pass the benchmarks.

If a student rises above the magic threshold of the 45th%ile, they are then NOT in an 8th grade Reading class. If not, then hello 8th grade Reading. The teachers in our district receive 3 years worth of test scores (which include %iles and FCAT levels), so they know where their students stand and group according to the class’ needs (extra strategies, etc). All teachers (including Electives) are expected to keep FCAT in mind and use strategies that will improve test performance.

Some of my students (usually the ones that do not exit the program, the overagers) will never realistically be college material and should and do move on the Career School (it’s a wonderful thing for them). Some of them have what I call “gaps in learning”. Some of these gaps are caused because the parents moved frequently, or the kid was absent a lot and missed a basic concept in elementary school. By teaching Spalding, I fill these gaps so the kids can move on and catch up with their class mates.

Does that make sense?

I don’t think your theory makes sense. If you don’t do the quizzes and your Prof. or TA isn’t satisfied with your assignments (because you’re not even doing them), you’re nto achieving: you aren’t fulfilling the requirements of the class.

My experience was that in college effort was used primarily as a tiebreaker, for example almost everyone heard some variation of “if your grade is halfway between a B+ and an A- and you put in all the effort, come to class prepared, etc., I’m more likely to round your grade up to the A-.” Some professors chose to grade lecture attendance, which I personally thought was unnecessary, some had graded assignments and others just collected them and counted whether you did them or not. In various ways effort was a factor, larger for some than for others. But I was never in a class where effort came close to outweighing achievement.

Depends on what the requirements of the class are defined as. Courses tend to have an “Course objective”, which is generally phrased in terms of mastery over the skill set and knowledge being imparted. That’s the ultimate end requirement. The requirements that you allude to, like homeworks, are supposedly proxy indicators with regards to the end goal. So, in theory, if you score 90%, you have supposedly mastered the material and “achieved” the end goal. But, I know firsthand that there are significant number of students who don’t display excellent mastery, yet get As (because they diligently complete all quizzes and assignments, which are a joke), giving them a 10-15% buffer in the exams. But, instead of using proxies, if graders were to explicitly ask the direct question: “Has this student mastered the material well enough to warrant an A?”, the answer would, for a significant fraction of the students, come out different. I understand that objective proxies have to be necessarily setup in order to have concrete metrics, but the current system doesn’t actually correspond to the course objective, in most courses.

      • Maybe for remedial or very-early classes some service could pe paid to “effort” grading, but at the college level and above it should be meaningless. Would you want a doctor who had technically failed at med school, but who was passed because of his high “effort” grades?

I would have loved classes like that! Most of mine were along the lines of 30% midterm, 10% term paper/lab reports/assignments, and 60% final. If you didn’t study well for the final, you were screwed. No pressure or anything! :rolleyes:

I think the 60/40 grading scheme in the article is ridiculous. Plenty of courses do have a percentage of the final grade coming from effort. Usually, it’s written in the syllabus as “participation”. And in my experience, even when there’s nothing official about effort in the syllabus, students can still be rewarded for hard work. When a student is just on the fence between two letter grades, or a couple of percentage points away from passing, the prof will consider the student’s efforts in class when he makes his decision about bumping the grade up a point or two. Students who ask questions, hand in assignments, and show determination to improve their work will usually get the bump. Slackers who never show up to class and forget their assignments will not.

But I’ve never seen something like this 60/40 idea and I can’t understand how it will ever be helpful to these students in the future. In real life, results count for a whole lot. You need to get the reports done for the boss, improve sales, get the research done, bake the cakes, or clip the poodles or whatever your job is. If you don’t cut it, you’re fired.

One other thing:

On any course that has any sort of subjective element, it’s important to remember that teachers are human, and who they like affects things to some degree-I fight like wholly hell to minimize this in my own classroom, but it would be hubris to think that I am 100% effective. One thing that anyone likes are people that value the same things they do–I obviously value education, and so am prone to like kids who show through their actions that they, too, value education. This has to have some effect, however hard I try to eliminate it.

Of course, I like kids for other reasons, too, and generally at the end of the first six weeks have found a reason to like virtually all my students for one reason or another, which is the best way to overcome this problem–though there will always be exceptions like the little back stabber who made sure to stay after class to rat out her painfully shy, awkward, unpopular group member for not being as intelligent as the rest of the group and so “didn’t really help on the questions.” That one–the tattletale–I will probably end up grading too generously out of fear that I am grading to strictly because of personal distaste.