What’s the value of a grade?

The limitations of a letter value

By Adam Schwartz, Page Editor

When students think of grades, they think of the letters or the percentages associated with them, but what do they amount to besides a marking in the gradebook? Because high school is a critical time for students, with college on the horizon and transcripts that are to be sent out, learning isn’t always put first. Being persistent in achieving all A’s in Schoology is what students aim for, rather than growth and focusing on what needs to be improved upon.

Grades should be an opportunity for students to see their improvement over the semester or throughout the year. We judge ourselves based on the letter we see when a test, project, or assignment is given back. That, however, doesn’t define any of us, and our development shines through the endless hours of hard work we put in and asking questions about particular concepts that we may not fully understand.

Without the stress of a gradebook, students would have a better time understanding and learning their material. With the current school environment, “completion” means students do their work just to get it done, and most of the information is forgotten after each new chapter. However, fully understanding concepts will allow students to connect it to future lessons and prepare them for tasks that will come their way later in life when there’s no “box to check.”

Another value that would be beneficial to students is having another chance, or being able to reassess on a test or quiz in which they didn’t exhibit a strong knowledge of the subject. A single grade doesn’t give a moral sense of how well they have mastered concept. If a student is given more than one chance, they can gain multiple advantages, for example, the improvement of their grade on a test or an assignment or really being able to focus on the content they do not understand. But more importantly, they do not have to worry about a one-and-done situation that could make or break their overall grade. In everyday life, students should get a second chance to demonstrate themselves in a greater manner after given more opportunities. This should be applied to grades as well, because it isn’t about how fast you learn, but how well you can comprehend the material at hand.

Collectively, we’ve been at fault for becoming overly-obsessed with getting straight A’s, but do we, as students and young adults, actually understand everything that went into the grade? Sometimes we need to step back and ask ourselves, “do I actually understand the material that’s been presented to me?” We need to make the change from “it’s all about the grade,” to “I need to know what this means before I can move ahead.”

The only value in a letter grade is being able to see that letter. What needs to be shown rather than a vivid red “A” is evidence that a unit wasn’t just completed, but that it was understood. If we walk away from each quarter with only the knowledge of our report card, then what did we really gain?