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Elementary Principal Blog

Pam Finnegan


I read an article recently entitled "Remembering Why Perfect Grades Aren't Everything." I was looking for some ammunition to use in my next phone conversation with my perfectionist son who is worried about the first tests he's facing in his Honors Chemistry and Microeconomics classes at UGA.

I got a lot more from this article than that, though. It provided some food for thought in reference to an issue I think our Cornerstone families struggle with: doing too much for our students when we are working with them at home. I wanted to highlight a couple of key points that I pray will give you some insight into our philosophy regarding grades.

Grades aren't the point of school...learning is.

When students love to learn, they are inherently motivated to study and engage with what they're learning. They work hard and understand the value of diligence, persistence, and commitment to what they're learning. And in the face of failures or disappointments, they're resilient. They take these setbacks as an opportunity for further learning and growth.

Prioritizing learning over grades is the key to success.

Parents can help students by instilling in them that learning is a privilege and one that we should value and enjoy, that being challenged is one of the best ways to learn, and that the benefits of loving learning will last far longer than any grade.

Cornerstone has policies in line with these principles. We want to ensure that teachers and parents don't prioritize good grades over everything else because we know that this results in students losing their desire to learn.

Please make sure that you are following these policies. I have highlighted a few that are pertinent, but parents are expected to be familiar with all of them. They can be found in the Parent-Student Handbook.

Academic Honesty

Academic dishonesty in any form is both a serious breach of personal integrity and a serious hindrance to real student learning. Because of this, the academy has developed this policy, which is intended to curb and, when necessary, correct academic dishonesty to better help the academy minister to the needs of its students.

Academic dishonesty is broadly defined as any attempt on the part of a student or parent, whether realized or not, to falsely represent the student's level of achievement or mastery in a given course or with regard to any element of that course. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Claiming or indicating in any form or fashion that the student has fulfilled any assignment or other academic responsibility, such as reading assigned texts or engaging in assigned study, when in fact he/she has not done so.
  • Using any resources, including but not limited to solution manuals and teacher edition textbooks, other than those authorized by the teacher in writing papers, preparing reports, solving problems or completing other course assignments.

The following guidelines define more specifically ways of avoiding academic dishonesty.

  • Homework should be done by the student alone and without assistance, including but not limited to information provided in teacher edition textbooks, unless such assistance is authorized either orally or in writing by the teacher, or by the Cornerstone catalog's description of the parent role in the course.
  • Major papers and projects should be completed only by the student or the members of a student group, without assistance except as explicitly authorized by the teacher, either orally in class or in writing on an assignment sheet when granted for work completed outside of the classroom setting.

Parent Honor Code

  • At Cornerstone Prep, our curriculum is twofold. We have our books and materials, and we also have our "living curriculum," the Christian character modeled by our teachers, staff, and parents. We purpose to handle our curriculum in a way that is upright and faithful to the intent of our published curriculum and the Lord.
  • At times, due to our unique model, it can be a challenge because parents may have access to teachers' editions, some with copies of tests in them, to aid in the instruction of children at home. We ask parents to use the teacher's editions in an upright and faithful manner, using these to support the teaching of a particular subject area. Children should not be allowed access to these editions to check their own work, nor to view the answer keys. Tests should not be administered prior to the test being administered in the classroom. Parents may look at the tests for a general study guide, but these should not be used to coach a child to memorize the answers for specific test questions. Abiding by these guidelines will avoid academic penalties for students and help us remain faithful to the integrity of all aspects of our curriculum.

When my kids were in elementary school, I was often tempted to over-"help" them if they were struggling academically. It's so easy for us moms to feel like we've failed or worry that our children will be devastated if they make a bad grade.

But their (and our) sole motivation cannot be making a good grade on the next assignment or test. I know this is not easy and goes against our human nature to do everything we can to help our kids succeed.

But remember, your kiddos are fearfully and wonderfully made! Grades do not define them.

The teachers and administration wholeheartedly believe this about each and every student. Our prayer is that we partner with parents to instill in students a love of learning that lasts a lifetime and inspires them to fulfill the specific purpose for which God created them.