Honour roll eliminated at Calgary school: What's the message?

Last week the news broke that a Calgary school has eliminated the honour roll. Why? “Awards eventually lose their lustre to students who get them, while often hurting the self-esteem and pride of those who do not receive a certificate.”

Oh really? This must be part of the same trend that gives us sports teams that don’t lose. Or win.

I’ve read Alfie Kohn and I agree that rewarding kids for every little thing they do can be demotivating. I think we’d all like our kids to develop intrinsic motivation and learn for the sake of learning, read for the sake of reading and so on. We do know that research shows that it’s effort that should be praised over results, at least for the most part.

If schools don’t celebrate academic achievement, who will?
But as far as I’m concerned, there’s a world of difference between eliminating the constant “gold star” system and never celebrating academic achievement. Yes, it’s true, some kids will work really hard and not make the honour roll, and some kids will land there easily and it won’t mean that much to them. We do need to create a school environment that is welcoming to all kinds of kids with all kinds of learning styles, because school is mandatory, and kids are young and there’s a lot to be said for meeting them where they are.

But it’s also true that in life some things are rewarded based solely on results, and it seems to me that school is a great place to learn how to deal with that, no matter where you fall on the spectrum. If we can’t celebrate kids who do well academically at school then where can we? Do we really want our kids’ first experience of being judged on grades to be admissions to university?

My eldest son is the type of kid that often marches to his own drummer. One of the struggles for him so far in elementary school has been learning what grades mean, really. I definitely don’t want his spirit crushed if he doesn’t make top grades, nor do I want him to give up because it’s too hard (or easy.) But I also think it is really good for him to see that being able to demonstrate one’s mastery on a test or with a project does mean you get on the honour roll. If he does that, it will be great. If not, well – he just might learn something. And that is what he’s in school to do.

What do you think? Are you for or against eliminating the honour roll? Check out Colleen Seto’s take here!

(Photo: iStockphoto.com)