The learning process is not represented by the grading scale, but it should be

The emphasis shouldn’t be on the grades but the learning that happens in classrooms

Allison Bonaventura, Opinions Staff Writer

“Don’t worry about your grades” or “Learning is about progress” are phrases that you have almost certainly heard at some point in your academic career. While both could be true, it doesn’t change the fact that grades are exceptionally important to a student’s future, and for students who aim to succeed, grades are a demanding reminder that they must consistently perform excellently in order to have a happy life.

Students now that any mistake can weigh heavily on grades, even at the start of term when skills are new. In many ways, it is destructive to the nature of education, which should encourage improvement, learning, practice and devotion. Yet with a rigid grading system, these ideals are trivial, replaced with fast-paced memorization, cramming and forgetting information.

From speaking to peers over my entire elementary, middle and high school experiences, many students fall into the trap of cramming material into their heads to succeed on one test or assignment, only to forget it in favor of cramming for the next test. This cycle occurs to keep grade averages high: any improvement, practice and learning must be done before the first grades go into Genesis in order to maintain a steady average. 

On the other end of the spectrum, students, including myself, may end up not caring about individual grades toward the end of the quarter, and no longer bother to do their best. Instead, just enough is being done to receive the desired letter grade.

Both sides are problematic as they are unhealthy habits which in turn routinely encourage students to both ignore the big-picture of education and hyper-focus on particular grades.

“I think the purpose of grading is to have some data along the way to show student learning as it’s going,” said Mr. Calla, a history teacher. “It’s a chance to quantify how students are progressing through a course.”

If this is the case, as it should be, then grading shouldn’t be much of a concern for students. This becomes impossible for many students who are held to high standards by either themselves or their caregivers to achieve excellent grades to benefit their future in college, where high school grades are a crucial factor in being admitted.

Further, the current grading system does not do anyone any favors in the area of improvement. When beginning a course, a student’s skills are sometimes rusty or absent in the case of newly introduced skills. Naturally, over the course the student will gradually improve on such skills until they reach the end and are, hopefully, fully competent in that area.

Despite this, if a student were to significantly improve in a graded area of a class, they would have succeeded in learning. But their grade would merely show an average of their previous inability and their fresh comprehension.

In response to such a circumstance, Calla said, “I would hope that, if a student is achieving progress [the grading] scale would reflect that, and so that is a great example of where that scale is not reflecting student growth [or] student progress and is somewhat hiding that progress.”

“I think the goal would be to have a grading scale that is clear, that students understand, that students feel is achievable, and that would highlight student achievement in the best [way] it can,” he said.

While currently this is not necessarily the case for the grading scale, it is also important to note that some issues with the grading scale are dependent on individual students.

“I think the… grading scale leads a lot of people who actually care a great deal about their grades to work harder to get that 93 and above,” said sophomore Natalie Paulin. She also claimed that “it’s truly up to the person, because they know their limits, [and whether] they want to study [or] don’t want to study.”

Paulin also said that she doesn’t “really pay attention to my grades as long as [she is] trying, [as] that’s what [her] parents say. They don’t really care about what [her] grades are, as long as [she does her] best.”

Such a principle differs from many student’s beliefs, but ultimately results in a much healthier school experience as neither of the aforementioned problems will likely occur. 

All of this comes down to the advertising of grades. While they are important to one’s future, students need to recognize that grades really aren’t everything; that learning is a process and that failure is acceptable when changes are made to succeed in a later attempt. 

That being said, there should be consideration into altering the grading system and scale in a manner to simply be a way to log progress and not demand constant perfection from students.