I have a chart in my room that reads:
A is Excellent –Highest Level of Achievement
B is Good –High Level of Achievement
C is Satisfactory –Adequate Level of Achievement
D is Passing –Minimal Level of Achievement
F is Failing –Unacceptable level of performance
Despite all my efforts to educate to the contrary, I have some students (and their parents) who have decided that B stands for bad. Being an English teacher, I love alliterative phrases, but not when it gets in the way of the truth; and the truth is B is not BAD. B is GOOD. B represents a high level of achievement.
A colleague of mine recently told me of a conference in which a parent remarked, “We’ve already resigned ourselves to a B, ” as if the child had some handicap or some disease. This was in AP Europeon History, no less, and the student is a sophomore in high school! So we have a fifteen-year-old tenth grader taking a course that is the equivalent to a freshman history class at the university level, and we are resigned to a B. What about PROUD of a B? How many of us parents took a college-level class while still in high school, juggling seven classes a day and extracurriculars while doing so? Furthermore, the AP classes are weighted a full point, so a B in an AP course still earns 4 quality points. It is entirely possible to make all B’s in AP classes and still graduate with a 4.0 or higher if are few A’s in honors courses are thrown in the mix.
Having steered two children through high school and the college search process and seen then both be accepted to selective colleges, I have heard more times than I can’t count from admissions officers, “We would rather see a B in challenging course, than to see that your school offered challenging courses that you didn’t take just so you could make all A’s.” I also heard repeatedly that admissions officers look for upward trends on transcripts. A “C” in a AP class as a fifteen-year-old is probably perfectly fine if by the junior and senior year those are trending to B’s and A’s. The fact that a high-school sophomore attempts an AP class at all should be commended. The rigor of these courses is the best possible preparation we as a school can offer our college-bound students if they are capable of taking those classes.
My defense of the “B” is probably heightened by the fact that my ninth grade students have recently finished a difficult unit and some of them were less than pleased with their test results. Considering that several students failed the test, a solid B was quite an accomplishment in my eyes. Not so in theirs. How did we get here? What happened to C being satisfactory and B being good? Does everybody deserve an A just for showing up and working hard?
Realistically, some students are better at some subjects than others. Some are better test takers, while others excel in writing or creative projects or the arts. On any given day or during any given semester for that matter, a student’s performance can be affected by a myriad of factors. If we adults are honest with ourselves, the same is true for us too. On a given day my teaching might be graded an A, but the supper I cook might barely earn a C. That seems to average to a B, which I’ll take to mean I had a GOOD day.