Can You Trust Your Child's Grades?

Widespread grade inflation hides what's happening in the classroom from parents.

Many parents suspect that their child's high grades are "fake news." Unfortunately, they're right. A girl who recently joined my writing program had received 93% in grade 9 English. Her parents called me because they thought her grades were far too high, despite the teacher’s assurances that her writing was fantastic. However, a writing audit revealed she had no idea how to use a comma, and her sentences were frequently run-ons. This was in addition to serious problems with content development and organization.  

Is this unusual? No. This is now the norm. There is an excellent chance that inflated grades are misleading you about your child’s current abilities. We know this because there is a massive discrepancy between high school grades and 1st year university performance: 90% of Ontario students graduate with a B or A average, but only 23% of professors say students “are able to write at a university level.” 

A brief history of grade inflation in Ontario

According to research by Cote and Allahar:

  •  Until the 1960s: No more than 5% of students received an A. 30% received Bs. C was the average.
  • 1967: Standardized exams were eliminated.
  • 1983: 38% of students admitted to university had an 80+% average.
  • 1992: 44% of students admitted to university had an 80+% average.
  • 1995: 53% of students admitted to university had an 80+% average. 9.4% had an A+ average.
  • 2004: 61% of students admitted to university had an 80+% average. 14.9% had an A+ average.
  • Since 2007: 90% of students in Ontario have a B average or higher.

Today, an A is meaningless. Universities and employers know this.  

Why does this happen? 

3 main factors are responsible for inflated grades:

1. The rubric marking system developed by the Ministry of Education is DESIGNED to inflate grades.

2. Teachers don't know how to teach grammar or essay writing, and there are NO standards.

3. Tiger moms' efforts are responsible for high grades, not teachers' efforts.

1. The rubric system designed by the Ministry of Education in Ontario is DESIGNED TO INFLATE GRADES.

This is the rubric template for grades 9-12 English from the Ministry of Education website.

Do you notice what the lowest grade option is? That's right! There's nothing under Level I performance, so the lowest grade is 50% on this rubric.

This is also how we were taught to design rubrics in Teacher's College at the University of Toronto. We were told that we could have a <50% column, which is how I design rubrics for my courses, but I have NEVER seen another teacher include a <50% column. No professor at Teacher's College ever did either.

While teachers are allowed to assign grades below 50%, they almost never do. As you can see from the rubric template that teachers are taught to use, the design of the rubric deliberately hides this option. This is NOT an accident.


2. Teachers don't know how to teach essay writing and grammar, and there are NO marking standards.

Zero standards, zero training

In Teacher’s College, we completed peer marking exercises where the professor handed out old essays that had been written by her high school students, and the teacher candidates had to mark them according to the provided rubrics. On the same assignments marked using the same rubrics, teacher candidates' marks ranged from As to Ds. There was no consistency in marking because the teacher candidates themselves had only vague ideas, often incorrect, about how an essay should be composed.

What’s worse, there was ZERO FOLLOW-UP even though many of the teacher candidates clearly had no idea what they were doing. They all graduated and went on to become YOUR CHILD’S TEACHERS.

Your child's English grades are 100% determined by the classroom teacher. Because there are NO objective standards for marking in English and most teachers have no idea how to teach grammar, it is easier for a teacher to hand out an A than to give a lower mark and have students and parents bother them with questions about how to fix grammar problems.

Unfortunately, this approach works: parents assume that their child's grades are legitimate. One grade 12 student’s parents asked me to help him with his university application letter, which was simply a personal statement to explain why he wanted to study at that particular university. This student, who was getting 90% in grade 12 English, couldn't do it: what he’d written was barely coherent, jumping from idea to idea without any clear organization. I helped with the letter and then told the parents that their son needed help with fundamental writing skills, or he’d be in a lot of trouble the next year in university. The parents replied that he was getting a 90 in grade 12 English, so why should he bother getting tutoring? The irony was lost on them...

Teachers don't need to know how to teach

Even in Toronto, one of the most diverse cities in the world, English teachers don’t need to know how to explain the rules of grammar. There is no such requirement and I can tell you from experience as a teacher trainer that very few teachers have any interest in learning these rules.

Many parents who call me complain that their child NEVER learns any grammar. It doesn't matter that their child's biggest weakness is not idea generation but grammar problems, or that they are an ESL student who needs to better understand sentence structure. When they ask for a grammar lesson, the response is "don't worry about it."

It's just easier for your child's teacher to talk about themes in a novel than it is for the teacher to learn the rules of grammar. As a result, children often complete an English class without becoming more skillful as a writer. 

According to research, only 23% of Canadian professors think students “are able to write at a university level.” A survey of 1300 professors at York University, University of Waterloo, Western University, and the University of Toronto revealed: 

  • 41% of students are "at risk" of not being able to do well in their university studies.
  • 16% are classified as "dysfunctional," which means completely incapable of succeeding in their studies.
  • Only 32% of professors think students “have adequate academic skills.”
  • Only 23% of professors think students “are able to write at a university level.”
  • Source: "Academic Skill Deficiencies in Four Ontario Universities"

In the United States, the situation is just as bad. The table below shows the percentage of American students who are proficient in mathematics, reading, science, and writing in grades 4, 8, and 12. Notice that most results get WORSE over time (except for a slight increase in reading skill).

In grade 12, only 27% are proficient in writing.


Irrelevant lessons

Besides the fact that children are not getting the technical writing lessons that the NEED, they are also spending their time on content that is irrelevant for 98% of students.

In the United States, only about 40,000 out of 2 million students take English literature in university. The ratio is similar in Canada. That’s only 2% of students, but this is what elementary and high school English focuses on: essays on plot development, characterization, and themes. However, 98% of students are not well served by this type of education. They will never use the particular essay writing skills they pick up in high school English. What's worse is they will not have the writing skills they actually need for college or university.


Parents KNOW that something's not right...

I see this all the time: parents are suspicious of their children’s high grades in English, and rightfully so. Many students who join my program are A students in English, but their writing is full of grammar mistakes and it’s not well organized. The reason is simple: it is easier to give your child an A than it is to teach them how to write properly.

A student who joined my class recently had gotten 97% in grade 9 English, yet the writing she showed me had many grammar problems and was difficult to follow in places. I asked her how it was possible to get 97% in English with such problems. She replied that she knows that she has lots of grammar problems and she had asked her teacher for help. However, her teacher replied that in her class, “we only focus on big ideas – we don’t worry about little things like grammar.” 

I asked another ESL student in grade 11 - whose writing also had many grammar problems - whether any of her teachers had gone over grammar with the class. She replied, "We spent half of one class talking about grammar, and this is the 1st time we’ve ever talked about grammar.In other words, before grade 11, she had NEVER received a grammar lesson in school, and then in all of grade 11, she receive a single, half-class grammar lesson.

These are not unique situations. I went to teacher's college at University of Toronto and I can assure you that out of roughly 60 teacher candidates in my cohort, only two of us could teach grammar. None of the professors could teach grammar either, though by their own admission, the ability to write properly should take precedence over subject matter knowledge. As one of my professors said (he had been a History and Politics teacher),

"If I saw that my students were having trouble with writing, I would stop teaching the content and focus on writing basics. The problem is I wouldn't know how."

My professor at OISE, the Teacher's College at University of Toronto

With this kind of education system, is it any wonder our kids can't write well?

3. Tiger moms, not school, are responsible for high grades. Moms' efforts hide what's happening in the classroom.

I went to Teacher’s College at the University of Toronto when Ontario was ranked near the top of the world in academic achievement. In a special presentation, the professors showed us the true statistics behind these achievements. The students with the highest English scores in Ontario were those in Chinese, Korean, and Russian households! Native English speakers were in fourth place! Why? Tiger moms push their kids and arrange tutoring. It’s not the classroom teachers but the tiger moms who should take credit for these achievements! As a result of their efforts, their children do better than native speaker children.

However, the side effect of these high grades is to hide what's really happening in school. Teachers take credit for the results, and the Ministry of Education gives itself a pat on the head for the success of its initiatives, but nobody realizes that most of what the smart kids are learning happens OUTSIDE of school.

There’s school, and then there’s the real world:

Harvard Business Review.

I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.

Grammar is relevant for all companies…. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.

Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.

In the same vein, programmers who pay attention to how they construct written language also tend to pay a lot more attention to how they code. You see, at its core, code is prose. Great programmers are more than just code monkeys; according to Stanford programming legend Donald Knuth they are “essayists who work with traditional aesthetic and literary forms.” The point: programming should be easily understood by real human beings — not just computers.

And just like good writing and good grammar, when it comes to programming, the devil’s in the details. In fact, when it comes to my whole business, details are everything.

I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important. And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on résumés. After all, sloppy is as sloppy does.

That’s why I grammar test people who walk in the door looking for a job. Grammar is my litmus test. All applicants say they’re detail-oriented; I just make my employees prove it.

Kyle Wiens is CEO of iFixit, the largest online repair community, as well as founder of Dozuki, a software company dedicated to helping manufacturers publish amazing documentation.

Jan Waginski

Founder of AEM Academy

Don't worry: Good writers are made, not born.

Despite attending one of Canada's most prestigious high schools and despite being a passionate creative writer, I struggled to get good grades in university until I learned the secrets of essay writing.


I'm Jan Waginski.

For over 20 years, I've been helping students achieve extraordinary levels of success by focusing on the fundamentals of writing: grammar, complex sentences, essay principles, and writing workflows.

In 2000, I started as an essay writing tutor at York University. After graduating from York with a B.A. in Politics and Psychology, I began tutoring ESL children and teens. In 2005, I moved to China where I taught English and Business English at Henan Agricultural University. Shortly after I came back to Canada in 2007, I received my TESL Ontario certification, which allowed me to teach LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) courses funded by the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship. Then I completed teacher training at the University of Toronto, where I was certified to teach intermediate and secondary grades. From 2011-2023, I taught grade 11 English, grade 12 English, and Writer's Craft, and from 2013 was head of online learning at a large multinational private high school. During my time there, I developed the “Rolls-Royce” of English training programs, which was praised by head inspectors from the Ontario Ministry of Education as one of the most effective online language programs they had ever seen. This program helped hundreds of foreign students get accepted into the most difficult and prestigious university programs in Canada.

After 10 years of managing the online learning program, I left in 2023 to focus 100% of my efforts on AEM Academy, which is the culmination of my life's work. It brings together everything I have learned in over 20 years of teaching academic English and best practices in online education.

Since 2000, I have been working non-stop to help foreigners and newcomers to Canada improve their language skills. As a result, my students have achieved extraordinary results in elementary school, high school, university, and in their careers. In fact, my students frequently earn higher grades than their native speaker classmates, and they get into the programs they want.

Adult Education and Test Training

  • As a corporate trainer, I have helped accountants, IT engineers, administrators, scientists, and MBAs improve their speaking and writing skills. Many have been promoted as a direct result of their training.
  • I have worked long term with graduate students to improve their writing skills to native speaker levels so they can publish professionally.
  • I have worked with many elementary and high school students whose parents were determined that they should write flawlessly.
  • As an IELTS trainer (I’m also a former IELTS examiner), I have helped high school students, graduates from foreign universities, and professionals like doctors get the scores they need on the IELTS examination for PR, professional language requirements, and college and university admission.

The world is flooded with people who have outstanding technical skills: employers receive hundreds of applications for every opening. The most powerful way to distinguish yourself and surpass your peers is through your communication skills. I have seen this repeatedly as a corporate trainer: talented engineers, programmers, and scientists are stuck in technical positions because their managers won’t let them communicate directly with clients due to their grammar problems in writing. You can't get into management without exceptional communication skills because managers spend a large portion of their day writing emails and directing employees. Learning to write well, without grammar mistakes, is the key that unlocks the door to positions of leadership.


  • York University: Double major in Psychology and Political Science
  • University of Toronto - Teacher's College: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
  • Ontario College of Teachers: Certified high school and middle school teacher
  • TESL Ontario: Certified ESL teacher for LINC programs funded by Immigration and Citizenship  Canada
  • IDP Canada: Certified IELTS examiner


  • Academic English writing teacher since 2000: My training program focuses on fundamental writing skills that are rarely covered in the classroom in depth, but are essential for success in school and professionally: essay writing, precise descriptive writing, vocabulary building, reading comprehension, and grammar mastery. In addition, there is a strong emphasis on complex sentences training, which quickly leads to dramatic improvements in writing.
  • High school teacher since 2011: Grade 12 English, grade 12 Writer’s Craft, grade 11 English, ESL all levels, and Literacy (for the OSSLT)
  • Seneca College: Essay writing preparation program for ESL students (ESL934)
  • University of Ontario Institute of Technology (CultureWorks): Academic English preparation program for ESL students
  • Henan Agricultural University: Business English and ESL instructor
  • IELTS Examiner and IELTS Writing Trainer: This one-of-a-kind training system developed together with a team of current and former examiners uses powerful templates, formulas, and modelling exercises that guarantee you cover the requirements needed for a high score.
  • Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Instructor: Academic English, professional communication skills, IELTS exam preparation
  • Corporate Business English and Writing Trainer: Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) of Ontario, Transamerica Life Canada Insurance Company, Financial Services Commission of Ontario, Office of the Fire Marshall of Ontario, Platform Computing

20+ Years of Experience Helping Students Achieve Extraordinary Results

It's not magic. I use a systematic approach to teach kids the fundamental writing skills that will turn them into effective writers and help them raise their grades IN EVERY CLASS. Remember, in Ontario, communication counts for 25% of the grade in most classes (and only slightly less in math and science)!

When you master fundamental writing skills, writing becomes a pleasure and a source of pride!

This skill-building course focuses on fundamental writing skills that make the most difference to academic achievement. Until you master these skills, writing will always be a confusing, anxiety-provoking chore. After you master these skills, writing becomes a source of pride!


Hello Sir, I am excited to tell you that I got 94% for grade 10 English. I just received the marks and I want to thank you for teaching me English and helping me improve. I never thought I would get 94% and I am extremely happy with my marks. I got this mark thanks to you Sir, so thank you again, Mr. Jan!

Risari J.

Grade 11 student in Mississauga


My writing has greatly improved since I started learning from Mr. Waginski. He taught me how to properly structure my essays and improved my sentence structure.

Michael L.
Michael from Toronto just graduated from UCLA is now working at Microsoft.


Jan not only helped me refine my essays but also changed the way I write. I owe him so much!

Jaewoo J. 
After completing his PhD at Rotman School of Business at University of Toronto, Jaewoo is now a professor at a prestigious Korean university.


I am just sending a message because I thought about you when I got an offer from Ryerson University. I really want to say thank you! All of this could happen because of your kindness and help. It did give me a strength to live in Canada… It’s really hard to contain my appreciation to you in a text but I am trying to ha ha. I was really afraid of confronting different people but your support helped me to overcome it. So thank you again 🙂


MJ from Markham was just accepted to Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University.


I am writing to share my latest IELTS result with you. I got band 7 in writing and 6.5 in Speaking. I am very excited to see my improvements. I’ve learned so much from you and I will keep learning English in my daily life. Thanks for every thing you have done for me!

Mango L.
Mango from Hong Kong now has the Band 7.5 overall she needs for a Master’s program at University of British Columbia.


I want to thank you for all your help and support for the last four months!
University of Toronto and Ryerson accepted this results. If you don’t mind, I would like to continue attending your class online to keep improving my writing.

Rama A.
Rama from Toronto just got the Band 7 she needs to study Architecture at University of Toronto or Ryerson.


We are seeing lots of improvements in her writing, even seeing a difference in her way of thinking about the topics and making connections. She said she understands lots about grammar and complex sentences.

Padma J.

Grade 7 student's mom


I finished with an 80 all thanks to you, sir!

Mohammed  A.S. 
Mohammed from Mississauga went from 62% in grade 9 English to 80% in grade 10 English after completing the AEM writing program.


Mr. Jan's teaching worked miracles on my language skills. All the advice and his teaching methods, especially the T.R.E.E.S. paragraph format, improved my writing skills significantly. 

Additionally, the grammar rules and the new words he taught us were incredibly helpful as well. I was able to score 95% in English this year, all thanks to him. 

Thank you very much Mr. Jan for teaching me everything I needed to learn about this complex language. I am forever indebted to you!

Saheli J. 
Student in Mississauga


Hello! I have already received the IELTS Test Results and I passed it. (Listening 7.0  Reading 6.5  Writing 6.5  Speaking 7.0  Overall 7.0) I had a good time on the IELTS class and I very appreciate you as my teacher. Thanks!

Qianhao L.

Qianhao L. from China, after only 11 classes, raised his writing Band score from 5.5 to 6.5 AND his speaking Band score from 6.0 to 7.0.

Qianhao now has the Band 7.0 overall he needs for Engineering at University of Waterloo.


I just received my test score and I finally got 7.0 in the writing section!

Krit P.
After only 1 class, Krit from Toronto raised his writing Band score to 7.0.

Krit now has the Band 7.0 overall he needs for a Master's degree in Business Administration in the U.K.. or U.K.


"I got 8.5 on IELTS writing and I’m pretty satisfied with the score. Thanks again for your helpful tips!"

Daisy H.

After ONE training session, Daisy from Toronto scored 8.5 on Writing, which she needs for immigration to Canada.

How do our students get these results? They focus on the fundamentals:

  • Grammar mastery: Grades rise quickly as soon as serious writing errors decrease, especially run-on sentences, sentence fragment, subject-verb agreement issues, and pronoun-antecedent problems.
  • Complex sentence mastery (our secret sauce): Students make their writing more engaging by learning a wide variety of sentence structures and how to assemble them like Legos.
  • "Visible" writing: Most student writing is vague and abstract. Students learn how to add specific details and vivid descriptions to make their writing come to life.
  • Writing workflows: Students master the process approach to writing used by professional writers: analyze, brainstorm, compile-confirm- cut, develop, edit.

Lessons also incorporate:

  • Essay structure: Students master a detailed model of essay writing that removes all guesswork and is effective for ALL elementary, high school, and university courses worldwide.
  • Intellectual and vocabulary development: Course content includes social science, history, STEM, and Harvard bookshelf readings. Vocabulary development based on these texts is built into the course.
  • Critical and creative thinking: Powerful thinking tools including integrative and lateral thinking help students see problems in new ways and generate unique ideas.
  • Memory and learning skills: Students increase vocabulary and improve memory and learning skills. The techniques are easy and fun, can be applied immediately in every class, and massively raise kids' confidence in their learning skills.

Our students also write a lot because learning to write requires LOTS of writing and feedback.

School is NOT equipped to provide this level of support, and without this level of support, students CANNOT reach their potential.

  • 1. Learning to write requires LOTS of writing
    Every class includes three writing assignments: one focused on grammar/complex sentences, one focused on precise descriptive writing, and one focused on paragraph/essay writing. 
  • 2. Learning to write requires LOTS of feedback
    Students receive next-day, detailed, colour-coded feedback on all writing assignments as well as targeted follow-up exercises.
  • 3. Learning to write requires LOTS of re-writing
    After receiving feedback and completing follow-up exercises, students revise their work for additional feedback and corrections. Please note: there is no limit to revisions and feedback. Many of our students write every day because they need to catch up, they want to be the best writer in the class, or they need to prepare for IELTS.

100% Satisfaction Guarantee

You are fully protected by our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. If you are not happy with the program for any reason, just let us know and we'll send you a prompt and courteous refund for the entire month, even if you're not happy with the last class of the month.

Jan Waginski

Let's talk about helping your child write well. Sign up for a free diagnostic audit of your child’s writing and a personal demonstration of our unique writing system.   

Please use the form below, email me at, or call 416-822-2637.

For the diagnostic audit, your child will need to write a short paper without assistance so that we have an accurate picture of your child's writing. When you complete the form, I will send you a short list of appropriate prompts, and then we can set up a time for your Zoom call.

During the Zoom call, we will go over your child's writing in depth, and you will get a personal demonstration of our unique writing system. There is no obligation to buy anything, and you'll learn several powerful strategies and techniques to help your child on your own.

Please note: If you decide to enroll in the AEM program, you are fully protected by our 100% money back guarantee. If I can't help your child write well, you don't pay.

Optional: Describe the writing issues your child is struggling with.
What is the biggest change you would like to see in your child's writing?
Would you like to sign up for a free diagnostic audit and personal demonstration of our unique writing system?
Sign up for diagnostic audit. Please email me the writing prompts.
Do you need resources to help your child learn how to write well?
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