Straight A’s Vs. Mastery in Learning

Straight A’s Vs. Mastery in Learning

October 16, 2020

Which is more important? Mastering a concept or achieving the A in class?

While studying political science in college, I found that my most meaningful classes and learning experiences were not always in the classes where I achieved an A grade. In fact, achieving an A usually had more to do with how much a professor enjoyed having me in class, participation, and getting  feedback before submitting a paper, than anything else.

Certainly achieving an A in college, or a 4.0 GPA, shows aptitude and knowledge. But there are two clear problems with basing your academic skill and ability on the traditional grading method. This is true in elementary school all the way up through college.

Grades in Learning

The first issue with grades is (as I described above) there are subjective elements of most subjects and classes. There will always be some element of subjectivity in grading (The exception to this would be a class where you are evaluated only on multiple-choice tests). Before college, teacher-parent relationships can even impact grades, both positively and negatively.

The second issue is school relativity. In college, different schools are on different tiers. Someone who achieves a 4.0 at Harvard varies greatly from someone who achieves a 4.0 from University of Houston (no offense to UH, I am an alum). Likewise, elementary, middle, and high schools also have differences based on their location, reputation, teaching staff, and district policies.

Whether in college or at the primary / secondary school level, grades are not really a meaningful measurement of student achievement and aptitude. Consequently, we often see straight A students achieve poorly on the SAT and ACT. Theoretically, if all schools were equal, the valedictorians from every school would have the highest scores on standardized tests. However, in many schools, the valedictorian does not achieve at an extremely high level. Likewise, at other “elite” schools there might be 10 kids who ace the test.

Mastery in Learning

This brings us to the topic of mastery in learning. When we talk about mastery in learning, we are referring to the ability of students to take a quiz or test and demonstrate their mastery over a certain subject. Subjects where it is easy to achieve mastery are reading, math, and the basic concepts behind science, history, writing, and spelling. Mastery removes ALL subjectivity from the equation. 

A program like Mastery Genius ensures a child’s mastery in their learning by offering guided practice and independent practice. Grades are based on whether or not they correctly answer a certain number of questions about that topic. Then we can reasonably tell the child and their parent – this concept has been mastered. After that, it’s time to move on to other topics.

However, one valid concern about the mastery in learning movement is that students learn facts and skills, but they don’t do any level of analysis. We know that analytical skills are important for future jobs and certainly college. Therefore, at Mastery Genius, we believe in setting your child up for success by building the foundational skill of academic mastery. Mastery takes place in all grade levels and in all fields. Consequently, by the time they hit college, if students are taking a more analysis-based learning path, they will have the foundational skills needed in order to provide a valid and well-researched analysis of the problem.


Whether your child attends a public, private or home school, we can do better to make sure that kids achieve mastery in academics. Mastery Genius is the first software program to replace expensive tutoring and replace it with world-class assessments and curriculum. It is individualized to your child, and we guarantee that they can show progress using our material.

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