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Grade Corruption?

Hannah Clark

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It is always difficult and heart-wrenching, staring almost mindlessly at that ugly, fat “F” on the report card you clench in your hands. For some, they may throw their heads back, not seeming to have any care in the world, as they’ve already accepted the fact that “they can’t do it”, while others, may break down in tears and hyperventilate because of a letter stamped on a piece of paper. Grades are stressful and nauseating to think about at times. We’ve been told for so many years that they matter so much, that they define your future. While some of that is true, not all of it is…the real question is, what exactly is it we are being graded on? Our skills? Our memory? Ourselves?

If we want our younger generation to be better learners, the adults in their lives have to demand a better way to communicate individual learning.”

— Clark

For years, our grades have been the principal form of reflecting subject mastery upon our levels of intelligence; in that belief of grades being able to communicate learning with a sort of accuracy or consistency. Teachers feel compelled to “grade,” any and all student work, believing that a letter or percentage will indicate to students and parents a measure of skill. Students feel conditioned to only pursue summative values and to get “A”s and “B”s to make mommy, daddy, and college application-eyeballers happy. Parents feel reliant upon teachers to instruct, assess, and communicate learning outcomes through the assignment of grades. Somewhere along the line, however, we may have lost sight of what grades are supposed to truly stand for and represent for us.

Depending on who you ask, you are more than likely to receive a wide range of responses. Teachers feel forced to slap down grades, whilst students are trapped “earning” them, and parents comprehend what “good” and “bad” grades mean. Yet, none of those understandings are close to the role they were meant to play; their primary function is to communicate mastery of performance and today they do anything but that. It can certainly be seen as one giant mess. What’s a better, more accurate way to reflect student skills and competencies, growth, and indicate a level of performance?

Parents rely on grades to communicate their child’s progress, and students feel heavily pressured to get “good” grades and work hard until some of them keel over. Teacher observe this work and assign a grade. If the grade assigned by the teacher does not align with the parents’ perception of their child’s work, there is usually an awkward conversation that ensues. One way teachers avoid this awkward conversation is by inflating grades, either through awarding “bonus” points or by skewing assigned grades toward the higher end of the spectrum. So by “padding” the results of the student’s work, the true picture of a student’s learning gets lost. How do we encourage our younger generation to work toward a goal that may not even be relevant to them the end? By focusing and stressing grades, it forces children to believe that the destination is more important than the journey. This message comes across loud and clear to kids, especially high schoolers. Many kids feel pressured to cut corners, sacrifice ethics and even necessities, and take easier courses, all in an effort to achieve better grades instead of better learning. Now, teachers own a part of this cycle as well. Do we always assign meaningful work? Do we always assess for growth? Do we always communicate expectations? If we want our younger generation to be better learners, the adults in their lives have to demand a better way to communicate individual learning. 

Many kids feel pressured to cut corners, sacrifice ethics and even necessities, and take easier courses, all in an effort to achieve better grades instead of better learning.”

— Clark

Our present gradation system announces the quantified results to the public. It really affects student’s psyche. Receiving a lower grade and everyone knowing about it, is really matter of shame. No one would like to exhibit the low grades they received from others. If they are getting low grades continuously, they may feel that they are out of pocket and sometimes, they may even break down and completely quit education. The low grades students receive in schools make them feel inferior to their classmates and that makes them depressed. A division is created between the students who obtain higher grades and lower grades and an attitude of superiority and inferiority gets developed in them. In the fear of getting lower grades, the students who obtain higher grade won’t take risky or innovative tasks and choose simple tasks, much below their caliber. This keeps them away from learning or experimenting new things. Actually, it makes them cowards. The comparisons made by parents and teachers about the grades students got will affect them badly. It can even make them depressed and feel rejected from society.

A bad or good grade shouldn’t control our lives so much and make us fear so much. It has been manifested into something completely outrageous if thought about. Learning doesn’t matter anymore, it seems like, and only the children with good grades are applauded, and the children with bad ones are shoved into the cracks to be forgotten and to never be bothered with. Is our grading and graduation system too competitive and corrupted? Are we being dumbed down? Are our grades only doing us more harm than good in the long run? What do you think?

       

 

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