What happens if everyone gets an "A"?

Well, I graded a set of final exams today and the lowest score was an 86%.   My first thought, “The test was way too easy”.  Then I actually searched through the student answers to see if there was any response with which I had been too generous.  I was looking for reasons to dock students points!  What was wrong with me?  It’s as though I couldn’t accept the fact that the entire class had done so well.

It felt so flawed because this is what I had been shooting for the entire year: to have all students attain the standards.  The standards were clear.  The test had been built upon the standards and understanding expected from this unit.  Critical thinking was required to complete all problems. I re-read the test with a demanding and discriminating eye searching for weakness.  However, I was satisfied with the assessment.

So why was I so bothered by the high scores?  Is this idea of a bell curve so engrained within me that I can’t let it go?  Are the years of old fashioned grade scales such a part of me that, despite my intellectual convictions about standards based grading, I can’t actually in my heart embrace it?

I’m shocked at my own reaction to the success of my class.  I should have been rejoicing and there I was sitting at my desk thinking that something was wrong.  It seriously took some processing time before it sunk in what had actually happened.  Students had learned and were able to demonstrate their understandings in a summative assessment.  There was a 100% success rate!  That’s what it should be!  This should be our goal: all students succeed.  All students reach high, learn and thereby grow.

So, what happens if everyone gets an “A”?  If the grades are a true reflection of student achievement and are fair, consistent,  and accurate, then we celebrate!