Commentary: there are better ways than grades in middle school

MEET THE PARENTS. Science teacher Stephen Williams, left, speaks with a parent during Sevier's open house. There may be better ways to report student progress than grades.

Karla Hernandez

MEET THE PARENTS. Science teacher Stephen Williams, left, speaks with a parent during Sevier's open house. There may be better ways to report student progress than grades.

Anna Harrington, Opinion Editor

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Most middle school students want to completely get rid of grades, but why should schools get rid of grades? It is a question many psychologists have asked.

Grades are not a good representation of a student’s intelligence. Picture this: a high achieving student’s grades suddenly plummet due to something like their parents getting a divorce. This student now believes he or she is dumb because of what some number or letter states. They lose any motivation to keep trying.

According to the American Psychological Association, many students don’t think they can succeed in school. They don’t think it’s important. It creates too much anxiety and is not taught in a way that’s interesting to them.

So, why should they keep trying? According to research from Harvard University and Brown University, even when a student’s grade rises, his or her logical thinking skills did not improve as much. This shows that many students learn only how to remember what their teacher has told them rather than actual thinking skills.

Some could argue that grades provide motivation, but most of the time, the motivation isn’t the right kind. In fact, Grades don’t truly motivate students.

According to “Inside Higher Ed”, experts know there are two types of motivation: intrinsic, or doing things for their own sake, and extrinsic, or doing things for some kind of reward. The best kind of motivation is intrinsic, but grades are clearly an extrinsic motivation.

Teachers should be teaching students how to ask questions and learn because it is rewarding, rather than making them study something to get a good grade on a test. Students will simply forget the information later and never actually learn anything.

Many students find themselves simply skimming books and lessons for what they think they need for a test. This causes students to not try to understand texts, and instead causes them to just look for what they need. This means that they can’t recall any of the facts they learned.

Students often stress over tests and grades, but never actually try to learn anything. If schools got rid of grades, and simply motivated their students to learn because they want to, maybe there would be an increase in academic achievement.

Grades can lead to teacher bias. Grades from a previous year can impact how teachers see their students. When a teacher views their student as someone who won’t amount to anything, it affects the student’s view of themselves and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Readers may be wondering, “Have other schools tried this before?”, and the answer is yes. In Fairfax County elementary schools, letter grades are no longer used. Instead of grades, one Arlington school is replacing the report card with a long essay on the students’ performance.

There would be no honor roll, no valedictorian. Colleges and universities would have to change. Teachers would need to get better at properly assessing what students know and can do.

All students deserve a chance to show their brilliance. Without grades, every student would get equal attention and expectations would all be the same.

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