Going for a D Grade
Innovation Academy is one of the only schools I know where our highest achieving students are disappointed with an A and psyched to see a D on their report cards. That’s because we use a different kind of grading system in our middle school:
- N = Novice (just beginning to approach expectations)
- A = Apprentice (approaching expectations)
- P = Proficient (meets expectations — this is like a traditional A)
- D = Distinguished (exceeds expectations — more than an A+)
Getting a distinguished grade is no easy task. In order to achieve this goal, students must take on additional work beyond the regular assignments. For every major project, our rubrics outline what students need to do to get a D grade. Students can also make proposals for their own ideas that go above and beyond. We have no honors classes. Instead, all students have the opportunity to go for a D.
What kind of student is going to be successful in the 21st century global economy? I believe it will be students who bring their creativity to the table. Students who invest themselves wholeheartedly into the work, not just because they want the grade, but because they care. But don’t let me tell you about these students. I’d rather that they speak for themselves:
After running around during my free periods snagging students for interviews, one student asked me, “Ms. Krakauer — WHY are you making these videos?”
Hmm… Why am I doing this? It takes a long time, and I have no idea if anyone out there will watch. Does anyone really care about what happens in this one little classroom? As I thought about why I’m making this video, and why I spend so much time on this blog, I realized that my answer is simple. I told her, “Because it’s fun.” Maybe I have an unusual definition of “fun,” but I am so proud of my students’ work, and I love sharing it with the world. I can think of other benefits too — such as inspiring more students to do D work or inspiring more teachers to offer challenges for their students. But the real answer comes from the heart, and that’s why you should care about what’s happening in this little classroom. Perhaps “fun” is the best reason that anybody should do anything.
Before closing, I wanted to share one student’s video scrapbook, in full, as he published on YouTube. When asked why he did this, he said that he wanted to “make something that nobody else would have made.” There’s no doubt that he succeeded at that. Maybe next, we can get him to take on climate change or the U.S. economy.