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Dangers of Focusing Solely on Grading

by Markella Giannakopoulos, staff reporter

Focusing on grades has become a big part of students lives influencing their education as well as mental health. "I probably focus way too much on my grades. It is worth getting the good grades, but it's very stressful," sophomore said. Photo by Amada Guapisaca.
Focusing on grades has become a big part of students lives influencing their education as well as mental health. “I probably focus way too much on my grades. It is worth getting the good grades, but it’s very stressful,” sophomore said. Photo by Amada Guapisaca.

With report cards already out, students are either really happy with the grades they got, or nervous about what their parents would say. Students look at the letter on the paper and they wonder if this is good enough for them. But many don’t think about the actual learning it took to get that A or B. In fact, most students will forget about what they learned a few weeks after it’s taught.

There has been an apparent emphasis on good grades that cause students massive stress as well as a decrease in actual learning. This priority of getting the best grade has caused negative effects rather than the positive effects that the concept of grading originally intended.

There have been scores of studies and research that all point to the same conclusion: when students focus solely on grading, their level of learning diminishes.

Alfie Kohn, a former teacher and critic of the whole concept of grading, has written countless articles on the topic. According to his article, “The Case Against Grades”, Kohn has come to three conclusions about focusing on grading. “Grades tend to diminish students’  interest in whatever they’re learning, grades create a preference for the easiest possible task, and grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking.”

“Students become so grade obsessed that they forget that the whole point is to learn. They turn to plagiarism and copying to get some points. They also tend to focus on small points that don’t have any importance with the learning,” social studies teacher Mr. Sosa said.

“When I focused on grades, I found that I wasn’t learning much. I didn’t care if I got it right or understood it, I only cared about the grade on the paper. I’m not as focused on them now. I’m learning a lot more and I’m proud of the work that I do,” senior Noelle Dimelfi said.

Besides the educational repercussions, grading also gives the students stress about school work. According to an article written in the Stanford Report, “pressure by parents and schools to achieve top scores has created stress levels among students—beginning as early as elementary school—that are so high that some educators regard it as a health epidemic,” a lecturer in the School of Education Denise Clark Pope said.

Although parents might not realize it, every time that they make their kids study harder and longer for that higher grade, it adds to the stress that students feel.

“As a society, we have established that at the end of the day, what really matters is our grade. It’s reflected on our report card, the way we speak, and when we’re at home. Parents don’t ask what are you learning, its what’s your grade,” Sosa said.  Every parent wants their children to go to the best college but is having high grades better than the child’s mental health?

According to Mental Health America, 20% of teens are clinically depressed. The pressure to have good grades and not be able to keep up has caused a great increase in depression and anxiety in teenagers. A survey conducted by mtvU and Associated Press Survey showed that 74% of college students reported that grades were the main stressor in their lives. Grades are a part of student life, yet because students are so focused on it, they forget about all else and their mental health gets in jeopardy.

The purpose of school is to learn and enjoy doing so, but the grading system has been slowly undermining that purpose, causing schools to become an unwelcoming place. Creating stress and a decrease in learning, grades have diminished the pleasure of learning. Grades have become an integral part of students school life.

“In this current environment, grades are sadly inevitable,” Ms. Sackstein said. “ The system would need a complete overhaul before we could reconsider the way we assess learning. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to teach students to focus on showing what they know versus the letter [grade] so at the very least the grade obsession doesn’t trump the learning.”

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