Michelle Flanagan & Madi Endicott
“There is nothing more beautiful than pure learning with no pressure and no competition,” senior Colin Causey shared his insight on what it would be like in a world without grades.
The purpose of a school can be defined in many ways. Some believe it is a school’s responsibility to prepare students for the rest of their lives by teaching them the skills they’ll need to succeed. Others argue that the original goal of education has been tainted by the need for statistics and raw data, and that now a school’s top priority is to put up good test scores to gain government funding.
Schools should be a place for students to learn and better themselves as a person along with expanding natural life skills, but do grades and test scores get in the way of this?
According to District Administration magazine, the current grading system and standardized testing “gives a narrow and misleading picture of our students and schools.”
Grades measure a student’s ability to memorize facts and formulas and complete a test, but they don’t measure the student’s life skills such as public speaking, teamwork, and perseverance. The material may build a student’s skills, but the evaluation disregards them.
According to senior Brandon Edelbrock, “[Grades] measure what you learn, not your ability to learn.”
The school’s goal of preparing students is not being met through the grading standards. When looking at the big picture, a student uses the techniques they’re taught more than the information, so why is a student defined by a letter grade based on how well they can regurgitate the content?
Still, grades are at the forefront of students’ minds. Since many high schoolers feel that their futures ride on their GPAs, which is true to an extent with college prospects, they tend to spend a lot of time and energy striving for perfection. This mindset can cause stress, low self esteem, anxiety, and can inhibit their right to enjoy youth.
“I am constantly striving to get the best grade I can, so it gets really stressful. It kind of takes over my life,” senior Kelly McCartney admitted about keeping her 4.0 GPA.
Edelbrock expressed what he believed to be the major flaw of the grading system. “When you have grades, you don’t strive to succeed and learn, you strive to make your grades better.”
Though grades teach good work ethic, they shift the focus of school from expanding your mind through pure learning to earning a specific letter grade.
Senior Ashley Overmyer claimed that she constantly has to remind herself, “It’s just my high school GPA, it’s not my life.”
This letter grade can not only be mistakenly used by a student as a way to define themselves, but also to define their peers. Though there are many different types of intelligence, do social circles revolve around people’s GPAs?
“Grades do nothing but separate people. It sets up judgement. It is the initial point where people start judging everyone in their life,” Edelbrock shared his perspective on the effects of grades in the social aspect of school.
Senior 4.0 student, Robyn Flick, disagreed. “I find it really difficult to look around and compare people’s grades to who they are.”
Whether or not peers judge each other based on grades, the fact that they exist opens the door to judgement because they easily allow students to compare themselves to each other intellectually and socially. Unfortunately, students tend to associate grades with self-worth even when they do not always reflect the amount of effort spent. One person’s 50 percent could be another person’s 110 percent. Grades do not accurately portray the positive characteristics or work ethic of students.
In a world without grades, where would the motivation for students to do their best be, since most kids admitted that grades are the only reason they come to school?
Senior Joey Nelson confessed that the reason he was motivated to get good grades was so he would have the ability to attend a college of his choice. Without grades, he pictured school becoming reflective of Communism.
“The whole problem with Communism is that nobody has any drive, because everyone is equal,” said Nelson. “I don’t think grades should be removed, I think the core curriculum should be changed. Don’t have every student be so standardized.”
When asked if the incentive to work hard in school would exist without grades, junior Desirae Cooper said, “I don’t see a purpose if there weren’t any grades. Even the students with 4.0s, I don’t know that they would be motivated.” She believed that grades have the ability to make students better individuals.
Would it be like this for all students? Causey disagreed, saying that the absence of grades could help students at a variety of levels.
”Without grades, it would be completely stress-free,” Causey stated. “You could just sit back and learn in the purest sense. ‘Bad’ students would be more productive and excited, and wouldn’t feel dumb.” He also pointed out that motivation is not something that can be forced; the only person who can control it is the individual.
Edelbrock had a similar view, and said that he would be more motivated to work. “Without grades, you have the motivation to succeed in life, not just to improve your grade.”
Outside of the fluctuation in motivation, what would change? Several students believed that the absence of grades would result in better cooperation between peers, stronger relationships, the pure learning of more relevant skills, and, above all, a happier environment. Thus, the school could more accurately accomplish their goal.
Whether or not grades exist, and no matter how well the school prepares a student, it is the individual’s responsibility to do the best that they can to expand their minds, learn, and better themselves as a person, because as Edelbrock concluded, “there is no rubric to life.”
How do teachers feel about grades and the education system? Catch the next issue of The Knight Writer for the follow-up article to find out!