The Scale Affects Students Most
The grading scale is like the mirror we look in each morning - it tells us our strengths and weaknesses. The letter grades determined by our teachers tell us two things: we’re either incompetent or above average and better than the students around us. Do the above “average students” end up more successful in life? And, what is success in life?
When talking to other students at East High School, I found a correlation between high grades and the expectations for success in life. An 11th grader said to me, "Not succeeding makes me feel like I’m not going to have many opportunities, and I’m just the lazy kid who doesn’t care about school to my teachers and parents. But the truth is I care a lot." Students around the world feel as though they need perfect grades to get into the best colleges and to get better jobs, and make more money in life. Do grades determine that, though?
Observing older successful people in life, you assume they were smart kids in school. But look at Steve Jobs. He was a high school student with a 2.65 GPA and a college dropout who invented what you are reading this off of right now. He changed the world without ever getting an A. But, is that even success? Is success defined by how much money you make? Success is believing you are successful. Do you think someone who misses their child's birthday parties and is depressed about their desk job, but makes seven figures, successful? Or, is successfulness how happy you are and the belief that you've made the world a better place? If evidence shows that grades don't lead to success or happiness, why are we letting this affect our mental health?
In a recent survey taken on my personal Instagram, 173 of 182 students said that grades have affected them negatively and caused mental health issues. In a recently published article by The Atlantic, half of the students who struggle with mental health as a result of grades drop out because of issues provoked by the grading system. If school leaders want us to be "successful" and end up at "good colleges," why are they not focused on other aspects of our worth? The current grading system ignores the multidimensionality of students’ abilities and intelligence. What about students who are bad test-takers, but can comprehend everything taught to them? If they fail a class because of test scores, do they not deserve to graduate or possibly have a better future?
Every class is based on the curriculum. We are expected to memorize and comprehend everything shown to us and then take a 50 question test on that subject, and the choice we have to pass with flying colors or fail disappointingly is much too polarized. If we don’t do well, we sometimes move on to the next subject without even understanding what we did wrong. So, are we actually learning in school? Performance on tests doesn’t equate to comprehension of the content, and if we cannot reteach ourselves topics that we struggle with, what’s the point?
The grading system has brought insufferable tension into people’s lives and created a stressful and competitive atmosphere for schools. These institutions preach ideologies of a safe and positive atmosphere, but our current grading system is evident of the opposite. If students are not able to show their true skills, the current grading system should not exist.