Saturday, March 25, 2023

Giving All Students an ‘A’ Is a Terrible Idea

Just when it seems we’ve reached the limit of asinine pandemic proposals in K-12 education, we are quickly reminded that there is no limit. The San Francisco board of education has come up with a real doozy that flies directly in the face of “do no harm” despite what its most ardent supporters may claim. 

The proposal to give all students in San Francisco’s schools A’s is largely supported by the 7-member board of education but no decision will be made until later this month. 

San Francisco already lies to the world, hiding behind bans on plastic bags and straws so the world doesn’t see what their progressivism really looks like for marginalized students. Abdication of educational responsibility is nothing new in the Golden Gate city, a place that prides itself on “equity” driven values when it should be cowering in shame over its generational failure to educate black and brown children. 

Only 12 percent of black students in San Francisco are proficient in math and only 20 percent are proficient in reading—those numbers both represent a 58 point gap between black and white students in the city’s schools. And now, education board members want to make everything better by channeling the 2004 version of Oprah Winfrey but instead of “you get a car’, it’s “you get an A.” They don’t want to even try to follow through on the promise of an education. It is an abdication of responsibility, negligence under the guise of kindness and love.

A couple of educators weighed in:

Education board member Allison Collins doesn’t agree:

“What are grades worth anyway?” she wondered during a recent Zoom meeting. “They don’t make kids work harder, they don’t really give feedback,” she continued.

My personal experience as a student, teacher and parent of three do not align with Collins’ assertions. Grades made me work harder. They make my own children work harder. And they absolutely do give feedback—when I received a D on a quiz on phases of the moon, it was clear feedback that I still did not understand the phases of the moon. An ‘A’ would have told me and my parents that I did. That would have been a lie. 

Teachers union representative, Susan Solomon, says that city educators also endorse the idea:

“We would be in support of giving students A’s. We are very determined that this should be about doing no harm to our students.”

I’m sorry but this proposal absolutely will do harm to students. It may take away the anxiety and fear of losing ground or failing a class due to the epic disruption of school closures but it also renders everyone’s grades meaningless and void of any integrity. It is one thing to use discretion and take circumstances into account—it is quite another to hand out A’s like lollipops from a 4th-of- July parade float. 

Under this proposal—which seems like a symbolic gesture that allows adults to feel warm and fuzzy about themselves—learning is not a priority and hard work is not rewarded. It lowers the expectations to the point of insult and disrespect. And it lies to students.

If the San Francisco board of education votes later this month to move forward with this proposal, it will be yet another example of the city’s “progressive values” setting marginalized students even further back than they already are.

They don’t need fake A’s. They need knowledge.

Erika Sanzi
Erika Sanzi is a former educator and elected school committee member. She is also a senior visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Her blog is Good School Hunting and her Substack is Sanzi Says. She occasionally writes for other outlets including Scary Mommy, The 74, and The Hill. She is the mother of three school aged sons and calls Rhode Island home.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent Posts