Make High Grades Meaningful for Students

For some students, earning high grades is an incentive. These students are very much interested in receiving good grades. However, some students are not interested in achieving high grades. Here is an example of how grades serve as an incentive:


My name is George H. Orfe, and I am the principal who told you the story of the boy and the $5 his father gave him for each “A” grade. You asked that I relate the story to you. Here it is.

I had a father of a fifth grader who gave his son $5 for each A on his report card. The first marking period the child received eight A’s and $40 from his father. The second marking period ended in January, and report cards went home at the beginning of February. The father was quite upset since his son had dropped to only one A, 2 B’s, and the rest C’s.

In the conference with the father, I suggested we call his son in and see what the problem was. The boy came into my office, sat down, and we began to talk. My first question was, “How is it that your grades have slipped so much this marking period,” and the boy quickly responded, “I didn’t need the money!”

With this in mind, how can teachers have students WANT to put maximum effort in their learning and achieve high grades? The answer will always be by motivating them through internal motivation—in contrast to relying on external motivational approaches, as indicated above. The LEVELS OF DEVELOPMENT were created for this reason

Make High Grades Matter

When teachers give some award or prize for achieving high grades, students start competing against each other. The competition reduces collaboration, which is a much more successful approach for improving learning.

A better approach is to have students buy into the strategy by giving them ownership. This is accomplished by having a mindset that grading starts at the outset for both assessment and grading.

Here is how it works. The teacher shares a synopsis about the new lesson. After students gain an understanding of the forthcoming lesson, but before it is taught, the teacher ELICITS from the class what would an A grade, B grade, etc. look like and how the grading would be earned (in contrast to being given). This discussion then has the students establish the assessment and grading at the outset.

By conducting a short introduction of the lesson and then eliciting students’ ideas, both the assessment and the grading rubric give students ownership. This approach is so successful because it is presented in a positive way that is empowering, offers choices, and promotes reflection.

My new book, Live Without Stress: How to Enjoy the Journey, is now available as a Kindle book. This book will show how to use some simple strategies to significantly reduce your stress, promote responsibility, increase your effectiveness, improve your relationships, and truly enjoy life’s experiences.