Broken grading system too highly valued in academic world

Special to the Star | Journalism Junior

The grading system used in American schools is largely ineffective as it complicates the learning process and success of students.

Grading policies have transformed from guidelines to standardized edicts all students must meet, or else face punishment. Students bear the brunt of the burden, but the grading system also affects teachers and parents, clouding the way they view pupils.

Many argue if there were no grading system, evaluation would be unfair without an objective scale to judge students by. Students may be discouraged to compete within their classes academically. Others argue a lack of an objective grading scale may put too much strain on teachers. While all of these points have merit, the grading system is not as thorough or fair as it may appear. Most likely, officials continue to adhere to it simply because it is all they know.

The line between pass and fail is very clear, and many students may feel they only need to meet the minimum requirement. Alfie Kohn, noted author and progressive education advocate, wrote an article in November 2011 for his website in which he states the presence of grades reduces student interest in learning itself. If the only purpose of school is to regurgitate information to pass tests, then students may not see the point in learning for learning’s sake. In the same article, Kohn says the use of grades encourages students to take the easy way out when it comes to work. The easy way out is rarely the route to success, and yet, that is what the current grade system teaches students.

Additionally, putting a numbered value on any student’s work is unbelievably discouraging. It takes away all intrinsic motivation one may have for a subject. I know I do not want someone slapping a number on my writing and calling it average. Once a passion becomes nothing but a number, it loses all appeal.

Furthermore, grades do not properly reflect intelligence, and neither do they illustrate what students know and do not know. Most students have probably known someone who is incredibly smart, but does not test well because of nerves. Conversely, most students probably know someone who is not the brightest, yet does well in school. If you think about it, the phrase “book smart” refers to people considered intelligent by the educational system on the sole basis that they make good grades. “Smart” is now a word that has been diminished to a numbered value and no longer refers to actual intelligence or common sense.

Because the grading system has determined whether students advance in school for so long, parents now only see grades as “good” or “bad.” This causes parents and students alike to lose sight of the real goal of school and instead become obsessed with the idea of an “A.”

Educators should not feel obligated to train students to get certain grades. Educators should feel like mentors to students, not dictators their pupils have to please. They should cater to the individual needs of students instead of holding everyone to the same arbitrary standard. Educators should gauge success based on understanding, not numbers.

Overall, the grading system is mentally harmful to students and learning in general. The evaluation of a student should not be based on letter or percentage grades. Without grading, students would be more likely to grow and learn on an individual basis. While the issues I have discussed barely crack the surface of the problem, it is still abundantly clear that the effects of the current grading system need to be reevaluated.