Wristbands for all?

Wristbands for students who scored “proficient” or “advanced” on the state exam, plus an invitation to a barbecue, spurred a parent protest at Thorner Elementary School in Bakersfield, California.

“It’s good to recognize kids, but they’re humiliating the kids who didn’t do well,” (parent Charlie) Pike said.

This, he said, was unfair to students who traditionally score lower on standardized tests and might not reach proficiency no matter how hard they try — mainstreamed special education students, for example.

After Pike complained, the school included all students in the barbecue, which featured hot dogs and chips. But the debate continues, reports the Bakersfield Californian.

. . .  parents, teachers, administrators and testing experts say schools must be careful when rewarding students on how they do on state tests. It’s more important to reward student gains, or the student body as a whole, than subgroups, they say.

Proficiency can be “an unfair target” for some students, said Morgan Polikoff, a University of Southern California professor.

About 60 percent of Thorner Elementary students scored proficient or better in English last school year, 67 percent in math, and 40 percent in science. That’s significantly higher than the local average in English and math.

Phillip Brown of the California Teachers Association, said it’s a mistake to reward students based on test scores.

“It’s a very positive thing to recognize kids for their achievements,” Brown said. “But you recognize them as a group for working together and working hard. Recognition needs to be where it enhances and brings everybody in at the same time.”

Students can be recognized for achievement only as a group? Just like teachers.

Recognizing students who make significant progress, along with those who’ve achieved proficiency, would make sense.  But the idea that it’s unfair to honor  achievers . . .

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  1. Ugh. This is why I stopped attending my school’s “awards night.” It became virtually interminable, with hard-working student scholars getting recognition right alongside students who were … office aides.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Some schools, those winners could get hurt. Presumably, the admin thought about that here. Nobody killed at the barbecue, so I guess it was okay.

  3. Most memorable student quote about academic awards assembly:

    “Here are the smart people in the school and none of them are YOU.”

    On the other hand, we spent three times as long on sports awards night, naming and praising the “spectacular work ethic” of every member of the 2-6 football team. I guess the only difference was that the academic one was an assembly that everyone was required to attend while the sports one was an optional evening “show”.

    It was also interesting that the rest of the fall teams had much better seasons, one winning a state championship, but the football team spent the most time congratulating itself.

  4. The problem is that state tests are supposed to be about judging the school’s practices, not simply the student’s. That’s why we’re told not to prep our kids, but to just make sure they’re well rested and fed before they come that day.

    Would the school administration/teachers/school board like to wear those special bracelets?

  5. I must say that probably the best school any of my children ever attended was a “magnet” school with an emphasis on academics and academic awards and reward activities for honors students twice a year. It was a magnet school to try to attract students who would stay the whole year (migrant worker population, 50% turnover in the student body every year). The teachers and principal did a fabulous job of reaching out to all of the students and parents, and fact that only a few students (10%) were honors students didn’t hurt morale at the school. If you can’t reward particular students for doing well, I don’t see that you’re ever going to get the students themselves to value the tests and the skills they are testing.

  6. Not going to lie, this is what has started driving me nuts! I remember in school when there would be those select few that always got recognized for doing well. I wasn’t a terrible student by any means-I would say average. Yeah sometimes it did suck where I didn’t get recognized, but then I just worked harder so I eventually did. I just wish people would stop worrying about hurting kids’ feelings-it happens once you get out of school all the time, and if you don’t learn that not everyone gets a prize for mediocre work early, you’ll be in for a shock later in life.

  7. “I scored ‘proficient’ on the high-stakes test, and all I got was this lousy wristband.”

  8. I dunno– as a kid, I wouldn’t have been proud of a wristband for test scores. After all, it wasn’t like I had to DO anything to get 99th percentile. It’s just who I was. Rewarding that would be like rewarding the blondes for ‘Golden Hair” or something.

    I disagree with the only rewarding group work. BUT I do think we should focus on giving awards for things that actually take EFFORT. Of course, most schools don’t provide the 99th percentile crowd with oppurtunities to work hard, stretch, compete and excel…..

    And I can understand why the SCHOOL would want to take credit for these kids…. as if the teachers had anything to do with the scores……

  9. cranberry says:

    Everyone is required to take the test. Some achieve higher scores than others. It comes too close to sorting students into “intelligent” and “not intelligent” piles, particularly when it’s linked to an event the other students aren’t invited to.

    To compare it to sports, it’s like giving all the students a physical–then giving wristbands to the kids with the strongest muscles.

    It’s not an achievement in the same sense that math team, or achieving honor roll, or debate team, or winning a robotics tournament are achievements. I’m all for recognizing achievement in academics as well as sports, but, you know, “proficient” isn’t setting the bar very high.

  10. Indeed it’s not.  Leaving out the “basic” and “below basic” group from rewards tells them that they have to work harder.

  11. cranberry says:

    No matter how hard they work, some children will not achieve proficiency. In an era of conspicuously scrupulous confidentiality, it’s bizarre to publicly identify the students who did not achieve proficiency.

  12. i thought the tests were measuring what the students know. so. . .i would think if they did work harder and learn more, they would improve. . . in my experience, the kids the numbers of kids that score basic and below basic b/c they mentally cannot meet proficiency is small compared to the number of kids who score in those categories b/c they don’t put any effort it.

  13. What a absolute waste of time, IMO. My old physiology instructor in high school had it right, the cream will rise to the top (and stay there).

    When everyone receives an honor, it becomes meaningless (and lets stop kidding, after you graduate from high school, and go on to whatever, no one is going to CARE what your class ranking or honors you earned).

    My resume lists the high school I attended (along with the years) and the fact that I graduated (and that was almost 30 years ago), it has a lot more important things on it these days.

  14. Many of my coworkers and I grew up in the “everybody gets a trophy era” and were conditioned to expect rewards regardless of actual achievement. The real world doesn’t work that way, and the company knows that giving the same rewards for mediocrity as it does for excellence encourages the former and discourages the latter. Those of us who still haven’t learned this end up as disgruntled, consistently low-achievers.

    Those educators and others who declare that rewarding the achievers is unfair should ask themselves how fair it is to give children unreasonable expectations about life after school.

  15. Peace Corps says:

    At a school where I tutored the students figured out that the test didn’t “matter” to them, the scores just effected the school. Many that could have scored proficient weren’t trying. The principal started rewarding students for scoring well and scores went up. Of course they were also tutored by me 🙂

  16. Peace Corps says:

    affected not effected, math is my specialty not English :0