Grades Need to Go

Ask any student in America if school is stressful, and an overwhelming amount of responses will be yes. Arguably the most stressful thing that students anticipate in their education are their grades – whether it’s from day to day classes in school, exams, projects, or standardized tests. Most students strive to achieve the best grades they can get, and not receiving such can be discouraging. Having a number or value, based on testing performance, measure one’s success facilitates both stress and competition. Whether it’s a letter or number scale, grades are looming over every assignment and everything students do. They are pressured to receive the best grades possible in order to increase their GPA or satisfy parents when report cards arrive. The grading system which brings about so much turmoil to a student’s career should be abolished or reformed at least.

Test results and grades based on academic performance can become a harmful label towards students. The labels students receive, whether it be an A+ or F, can impact both personal and impersonal expectations of oneself. This means how students view themselves and how teachers or adults view them varies. Teachers may look at a student who struggles with traditional academic success and treat them accordingly, dismissing the struggle if they don’t tune in or work hard enough. Or, advisors and counselors may look at the grade range of a student and decide that a course or path in school is not appropriate for them. Receiving low grades can seriously discourage us from trying – and limit our opportunities in the future.

Obviously there has to be some way of measuring success in school and giving critique on the work we do. A solution to this is simply feedback. Knowing what to improve upon and what to fix is how students grow and learn for the future, but why should they be penalized for it as well? When children are learning something for the first time, they should receive feedback and words of encouragement but should not be immediately graded based on performance. If assignments were on a pass / fail basis, with emphasis on teacher or peer feedback, this would focus on improvement and cooperation. When teachers can annotate, comment on, and explain assignments the students can accordingly learn from their mistakes.

In a non-academic setting such as sports, we aren’t being constantly given a grade based on performance, but we are given feedback. Athletes leave practice every day with new information on how to improve. The coach provides insight on the strengths and weaknesses of a player and there is specific knowledge about what someone can be doing better. Taking this concept into consideration, school can function similarly. Rather than giving typical grades for every class, there can be overall evaluations and constructive criticism to help students improve. This method encourages a lot more growth over time than immediate success.

One could argue that in order for universities or jobs to distinguish between applicants, they need more than just a passing mark. If the grading system was abolished, how might colleges separate the applicants without these ACT, SAT, or GPA values? To that I say they should look more closely at everything else. A student is more than just their academic grades, and the application should be a culmination of involvement in clubs, sports, hobbies, passions, etc. as well as community service or a meaningful essay. There are other factors to students that can oftentimes be overlooked when considering admission. 

In truth, school is a lot more than just grades, and students are a lot more than what their report cards display. If grading based on testing performance was abolished, it would relieve stress and derail the extreme expectations students globally face. Rather than constant competition and societal pressures, students would focus on self-improvement and growth. There are many ways to measure success, so having one rigid code for academics can be seriously detrimental.