Teachers and schools are increasingly rated/ranked based on "closing achievement gaps" and "closing excellence gaps." While ideally this may support extra teaching efforts and approaches to encourage the lowest performing pupils to increase learning growth and demonstrate grade-level-proficiency, this may also incentivize teachers and schools to cap the growth of students at the top. Regardless of actual growth achieved and knowledge demonstrated, it is the recorded grades which matter, as these recorded grades provide the data utilized to rate/rank teachers and schools.

When research finds that some students perform above grade level, are "equal outcomes" possible, without capping growth at the top?

Concerns regarding teachers being incentivized to assign grades which indicate "equal outcomes" include:
- grades not providing pupils with honest and meaningful feedback on growth throughout the term
- falsifying records to signal that all pupils are performing at the same skill level
- some students may receive inflated grades (exaggerating demonstrated knowledge)
- some students may receive deflated grades (downplaying demonstrated knowledge)
- there is a ceiling beyond which growth is not measured
- growth beyond the ceiling is capped, thwarted, discouraged
- there are a growing number of grading practices in use to ensure the reporting of "equal outcomes"
- truth, honesty, integrity fall by the wayside when essentially measuring with a rubber ruler to report "equal outcomes"
- students may fail to develop "internal locus of control" (but instead take a passive role in their education)
- rather than the onus being on the student for his/her learning, students do not take responsibility for their learning
- the traditional teaching/learning partnership between educator and pupil is replaced with a model in which the responsibility for "learning" is transferred from pupil to teacher. The teacher is held accountable for both teaching and learning.

There are a number of old threads which have discussed standards based grading and related means of assigning grades, including
- grading based on subjective expectations for a given child,
- selective redo opportunities,
- subjective grading based on a teacher's expectation for that student (not based on a standard or rubric which allows comparison amongst students),
- level of mastery for testing out,
- Competency Based Education (CBE), based on achieving mastery, regardless of number of repetitions or length of time required, which may tend to make all accomplishments seem indistinguishably the same among students of the same chronological age,
- differentiated task demands,
- differentiation in task demands -vs- variability in work products produced.

Because grading practices listed in the above roundup make all students appear to have achieved the same outcomes, some may wrongly infer that all students are performing at the same level. With student grades (from preschool on) permanently stored in statewide longitudinal data systems, the grades assigned may have lasting impact. Grades which are contrived to show equal outcomes by all students may:
- inaccurately represent student growth and progress,
- skew GPAs and class rank,
- influence college admissions,
- demotivate gifted students,
- give an inflated sense of accomplishment to students assigned an "A" grade for lower levels of work.
Some may say the widespread adoption of such grading practices by US public schools, combined with data collection P-20, changes these classrooms into a taxpayer-funded lab for studying the results of these practices upon our children.

Related posts:
- list of grading practices
- policies which lack transparency

By contrast, grading practices often used to consist of a set of:
- pre-test grades, reflecting prior knowledge or inbound knowledge,
- formative grades, reflecting uptake of the material whilst one was working through the course,
- summative grades or post-test grades, reflecting retained knowledge or outbound knowledge at the end of the course.

Studies such as the NWEA - Fordham Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? (Sept 2011), indicate that some students may become "descenders" within a given one-third of their class. Unfortunately, this may inspire some schools to seek strategies to intentionally create "descenders," in order to close gaps and achieve equal outcomes.
1) One heinous method:
- Enroll students in a particular class.
- Have selected student(s) actually attend a different, higher class.
- The selected student(s) will learn more and outperform those attending the class for which they enrolled.
- By comparison, the students attending the class for which they were enrolled are now "descenders."
2) Another toxic gotcha:
- Quiz students on their study preferences (listening to background music, etc)
- Divide students, presumably by preferences.
- For some student groups, loudly play upsetting, discordant, attention-distracting music during tests. Note that students do not choose the music or control the volume. Students taking tests under these conditions are now "descenders." Teacher and school defend the practice as an "accommodation" requested by students.
3) Another demotivator:
- Document and publish a plan to tally student participation points.
- A predetermined number of students with the highest tallies will "earn" an opportunity to attend a student senate conference.
- When the tallies are in and verified, change the rules, ignoring the students with the highest tallies of participation points.
- Tell the students with the highest participation points that you have selected other students in order to better ration opportunities. Tell the high-tally students that their only reward is the satisfaction they derived from their work. [Consider whether the teacher saying this would accept satisfaction in their work to be their only reward, if their promised paycheck was withheld from them and given others.]
- The duped students learn not to trust the system. The students who received the reward without working to "earn" it learn a sense of entitlement. Neither group of students develop "internal locus of control" from this experience.
4) More examples may be found in the thread Toxic Educational Practices - a rogues gallery.

Grading practices and grades recorded provide honest/insightful or less-honest/less-insightful feedback to students.
Recorded grades also signal performance level to families, teachers, schools, institutions, programs.
Recorded grades provide input to research studies.
By these various means, grading practices impact teacher ability to remain employed, school ability to access funding, realistic-or-unrealistic student self-concept, college readiness, college acceptance, college grade inflation/deflation, and ultimately even the value of degrees conferred.

Unfortunately, concerned parents are not the only members/readers of this forum. It is my understanding that this forum is also frequented by personnel from schools/districts looking to perpetrate this type of disservice toward top pupils in order to cap the growth of students at the top and thereby close gaps... achieving equal outcomes. Their goal is to improve their own teacher/school ratings, rankings, scorecard.