STUDENT VIEWS: Letter grade system gets an F

COLOR cjh writer brookeEighth grade students in teacher Allie Browe’s English Language Arts classes at Clarkston Junior High School are writing activism articles in their argument writing unit, and we’re publishing some of their top articles. This week, Brooke Butler discusses school grades.
About a few months ago, I had my first anxiety attack. I have never gone through a more stressful situation in my entire life.
The culprit for this vicious attack was over a grade. A simple, arbitrary letter that seems to define all students across the world no matter the age or grade level.
While grades affect students in many different ways, the common thread that runs between them is stress and anxiety. This system indeed does no good.
For instance, students will often feel pressured to get good grades. They often hold themselves to high standards, as do their parents and teachers.
“At school there is a range of academic pressure we feel, derived from a need for perfection, worry over grades, parental pressure, competition, sports, or a tough class load. Academic pressure does not begin in college. The nervous breakdowns, panic attacks, burnouts, and depression are also apparent in many younger students,” says Sargunjot Kaur, a high school student writer.
As a result, grades increase stress and anxiety for students, and we all have the ability to change this. We have the resources and the power to change the system. Some stress is actually good for you, but too much is unhealthy.
To add on, not only do the students receive an exponential amount of pressure, but it increases the willingness of students to cheat.
Have you ever heard the quote, if you cheat you’re cheating yourself? Did you ever really think about how we get driven to the point of cheating?
The answer is because of the grade. According to David L. Jaffe, 73% of all test takers, including prospective graduate students and teachers agree that most students cheat at some point. 86% of high school students agreed.
Furthermore, when it comes time to evaluate student progression in school, the information could be false due to the high chances that multiple students cheated to get an inaccurate grade. Why take the chance of being misled?
Continuing on, grades can do more than just affect your stress levels, they can also influence your self-esteem.
One bad grade can cause a student’s self-esteem to diminish. According to a study conducted by Wiggins and Schatz, they found that increases in self-esteem are positively correlated with increases in academic achievement.
As you can see, the relationship between self-esteem and grades correlate with each other. When it comes down to how you feel about yourself, a letter shouldn’t sway it in any way, shape, or form. This is just unbelievable.
To conclude, in order to ensure a system with better benefits, the switch to standards-based grading would be more effective. Currently, 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards, a ready-made, comprehensive list of standards for math and English, a list of skills that could be used to communicate what a particular student has learned in a given marking period, summarizes Jessica Lahey in Letter Grades Deserve an F. As you can see, this system is efficient and effective.
If standards-based grading wasn’t better than the letter-based system, then 45 states would not have adopted this system. It decreases all of the problems of letter grades and provides more meaningful lessons to students.
I realize teachers and parents may argue grades are beneficial because it can help themselves and the student to recognize student progression.
However, statistics show that in the past, it was the struggling students who were more likely to cheat to get by; now, it is the above-average college bound student. Therefore, this shows the progress of the student is most likely going to be incorrect or false. The letter grade system overall deserves an F. It is truly unacceptable that millions of students around the world stress about a letter.
Why do we continue to have these arbitrary letters define students? Why do we put so much pressure on a student just to get the A? We need to switch to a better system to ensure the objective of what we’re trying to teach to students. If we don’t start making a change now, we might as well kiss the well being of our students goodbye.

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