Bs are “A” okay

It can vary from day to day, but for me it begins almost as the last Progress Report parent conference concludes. I become a bit frantic at the realization that Term 1 Reports are going home in about 10 weeks. Quick to follow are the second guesses as to whether or not I have not gathered enough “data” from students. Fast forward to late January and now there is not a minute of instructional time left because it’s “show what they know time”, but where did all that time go? For teachers, like me, who do not have a homeroom class on which to anchor there are a lot of factors that can impede assessment in a quasi-timely manner.

In my situation, I only see some of my classes once per week. Like all schools, class time can be interrupted by any number of events ranging from inclement weather(affects attendance when buses are cancelled), assemblies, sporting events, concerts, staff PD(off site), vacations(theirs not ours), and illness. It is not hard to see how time can speed by between Progress Reports in mid-November through Winter break and whamo it’s January 31st and your assessing, reporting, and writing blogs to meet your deadlines.


Side note: When it comes to writing blogs, it’s always a great reminder to all teachers to take frequent breaks while putting the finishing touches on report cards. Wryting is the perfekt brake four me. I especially like editting my werk, but eye digress. Which ever way you prefer to recharge, make sure you take some time for yourself as you tick the boxes and craft those comments.


This post is supposed to be a comment about assessment and I want to share a few thoughts about expectations in all of our classrooms. This is where I need your help with this question: Is an A- the new B? Are we recording too many As in our markbooks? Is this a function of self-esteem and or family/system/political pressure to show constant improvement? Considering the number of bovine births that happen each year EQAO results are released, it would seem that the adults are taking it harder than the students.

The part that throws me for a loop is how misinformed the press and public are around the results of this annual assessment-palooza. It’s time for education to do what it does best and demystify provincial assessment results for everyone. This way we can get on to helping our students instead of everyone worrying about school rankings and subsequent real estate fluctuations. Now about those marks…

A few years back, a student shared a humourous take on how report card marks were viewed

A = okay
B= better work harder
C= choose a new family
D= disowned

Although meant to be funny, the message shared by this student cut to a startling truth about many existing attitudes towards achievement in education. I have had to communicate with students and parents that achieving a B in a subject is considered success according to Ontario standards. Last September a CBC News story shared how some Ontario universities used a ranking system for  that implied that averages were inflated. This meant that A from one school might only be a B or C at another.

The intrinsic motivations of families who seemingly base their self-worth on a child’s report card are also bones of contention for me? How is this a healthy way to approach learning when students are pressured to be perfect achievers and expected only to bring home straight As in order to maintain family honour? We have to make sure that report cards are seen as snapshots of information that are captured in time. They cannot be reduced to moments of instant gratification and then ignored out of context.

It happens from JK to 12. After each teacher spends hours crafting comments about learning skills and all subject areas the eyes of most people will only track to the Level or Letter grade on the page. The messages of progress, next steps, and encouragement all need acknowledgement too.

I get that parents expect their children to do their best. What else would they expect? Their worst? What becomes difficult to translate to families is the amount of effort that students are putting into their work in order to learn, improve, and grow as learners. It is impossible to simply measure out in Levels or A to Ds. This is why teachers need to work with families to establish realistic expectations about achievement. If we are preparing our students for the real world that we have promised them in high school, post secondary education, and beyond; then marks that are other than As are going to have to B part of everyone’s alphabet.

Bs can be built upon. They show the beginnings of brighter days ahead. Bs can be the starting points of brilliance. So celebrate those hard earned Bs earned by your students because they are A okay everyday.

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Updated: January 31, 2019 — 10:02 pm

The Author

Will Gourley

J/I lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, and divergent modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 110 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at https://escheweducationalist.wordpress.com/

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