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Schools should rethink their use of letter grades

Countries all around the world use the letter grade system. Though the letters and the percentages assigned to them slightly vary from country to country, most people are familiar with the system. People are so used to A through F grading that no one realizes its faults.

Most people know the feeling of getting back a test and seeing that they didn’t get as high of a grade as they wanted. It sure doesn’t feel too good and it can be pretty demoralizing. A study conducted at the University of Michigan in 2002 said that, “When students were asked about what they base their self-worth on, more than 80 percent said academic competence.” It shouldn’t be this way.

Students tend to be more focused on getting a good grade than actually understanding the material taught in class. Instead of completing their homework, many students just copy the answers from a friend, just so they can get the credit. Students have been taught since elementary school that good grades mean a higher chance of being successful. Even though it ethically might be wrong to copy homework answers, if it means you can get credit for the homework without taking a lot of time and effort, why not?

When students get a test back, they’re generally more concerned about the grade they received than what they did wrong and how they can improve it. This is a mentality that the grading system creates by only encouraging the grade itself and not the level of comprehension that students have.

Letter grades have been stigmatized so that getting an A or a B is “good” and anything below that is bad. These stigmas create stress for students and put pressure on them to always get a good grade, while in reality, the larger concern should be the student’s understanding.

Instead of letter grading, schools could use a variety of methods. There’s pass/fail grading- which is basically what it sounds like. You either pass or you fail, there’s no in between. This system would consist of any grade that would be an A, B, or C in the traditional letter grade system becoming a “pass” grade. D and F would be considered a “fail.” This would take away the pressure on students to get straight A’s, or A’s and B’s.

Another option is for each student to have a portfolio to document their progress. Progress demonstrates more about a person than how well they can perform on one occasion, like a test, so this system would benefit students who don’t perform well on tests, but do well on schoolwork.

These alternatives to letter grading would be beneficial for students as well as teachers. Teachers spend so much time grading assignments and uploading them to the gradebook, so simpler grading methods would be much less time consuming for them.

All in all, changing the grading system would be helpful for teachers and students. It would minimize stress and maximize students’ potential for growth. Schools should rethink their usage of letter grades and consider other options.


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