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Let's Change the Grading System

Nobody likes grades. Most teachers do not like grades, and no student likes grades. Therefore, it’s fair to say that no one likes grades. So then, why do we still have grades? Because we need to measure students’ performances. But every person performs differently. Some people don’t test well, some can’t write well, some just can’t focus well. On top of that, all teachers teach differently, and they all have different philosophies. All students learn differently and all teachers grade differently. It’s obvious that what we have now is not a good method, especially if nobody likes it. Instead, why don’t we create a new system? One that not only will people like, but also will invest in more and inherently prepare them for their future?

Realistically, it’s not gonna ever happen. Why would it? We are so ingrained [?] to our current system and it’s not that big of a deal. It’s something we all tolerate and accept. It’s not a horrible method of measuring performances across the board.

Here’s why our grading system is a problem. The objective of a class is to give students an education. In order to see if the class is working in doing so, the students take tests, as if to say, “we have learned the material, please go on”, or, “something didn’t come across clear to us, let’s go over it again”. The teacher can use these scores to alter his/her lessons, and keep track of who needs a little extra attention. Unfortunately, the 1700’s are long gone, and not only are classes more dense, populated, harder, and competitive, but the students care less, the teachers are not paid close enough to give a crap, and the way we measure performance is outdated.

The courses more and more constricted to a particular set of lessons, usually government mandated, and on top of that, no one wants to be there. Aside from parents who want to get rid of their kids for the day (which is understandable; kids are hard), children don’t like it passed 3rd grade. They start skipping school, pushing off homework, and, well, they’re still children; why should they be confined to a small desk and forced to pay attention to the same person talking about boring stuff. Now, yes, that is not much different than sitting in front of a TV, but they shouldn’t be doing that either. And I’m not just referring to when they’re in middle school; the same goes for high school and college. Well, maybe less for college, but for sure high school. Hell, college too: grades equal grants in college, after all.

How many times has a bad test or paper ruined your entire grade? How easy is it for the one day in 5 years you get sick, and it’s on the day the class goes over what’s going to be on the test, and you miss things when you study, tissues in hand, half conscious? Not only did that happen to me, it happened to everyone! And you can’t shake it off, because that was one of four total exams! Goodbye A!

But what about the tests themselves? There are short answer, multiple choice, true/false, essay…etc. but all they do is force students to cram the night before just to spit out what they stuffed into their short-term memory. The only ones who benefit from this is energy drink and coffee suppliers.

I was in a history class in college. We had three tests. I, and a friend in the class went over the word bank, given to us as a study guide, term by term the night before the exam. I got A’s on every test and in the course. What do I remember from the class that covered centuries of history, which I attended almost every day? Nothing, except for the documentary about the Atom bomb (called The Atomic Café), where they showed “Duck and Cover”. This was a university course, and I learned nothing.

A year later, I was in a psychology class. It was all about how all things are designed with human naivety in mind, like why a mouse “clicks” and ergonomics. I remember learning that some colors evoke certain emotions, explaining the traffic light colors, and we had to take a system and break it down to every minor step, highlighting how much effort is needed to perform a task. The class was eye opening, and I loved it. The teacher was great, the lessons were relevant, and I could go on about what I learned in the class. D. Why? Well, our final project, which I just mentioned, was supposed to be presented in conjunction to a paper, and I had the PowerPoint ready and already submitted the paper, but I overslept the class, possibly due to all the cramming for other classes (I don’t remember the exact reason). I was mortified, and didn’t contact the teacher, and since it was the last day of class, and my last semester at the school, I never saw her again. I’m not saying that I didn’t deserve that grade, but I got the D for the course; not just the one project.

My point is that grades do not measure what was learned. They compare the dumb kids to the geniuses, even if the “dumb kids” are geniuses and the “geniuses” just cheated. Think back to your academic career. What stands out? Your tests? No. Copying notes into your notebook or computer? No. It is your teachers, your school projects, the field trips, the time you had class outside, or a firetruck parked in the lot for everyone to explore. But they don’t test you on that. And that’s where the most real learning occurs. The special ed. classes do that and they aren’t graded on test scores. They have a more fulfilling semester than anyone else.

And the teachers. Teachers did not choose their profession because of its amazing perks, pay, and atmosphere. Some may argue that depending on where they are and who they are teaching, they enjoy being tormented. That’s not it. Teachers teach because the potential gratification is higher than any amount of money, or employee-of-the-month awards. Children and even adolescents are undamaged by life, they’re innocent and whimsical, and can be awe-inspiring. And I know some of you retards are thinking well then why do they go on strike? Or hate kids? Well, one, congratulations on learning to read! Second, life isn’t free, and it’s not cheap either. Teachers are not getting paid enough, and they should be one of the highest paid, because they are gods toward their students, your children, and our future, and depending on what age they are, a teacher’s word can be written into their brain’s programming. And for high school, it can mean going to Harvard, or dropping out for a gang or pregnant. High school professors have lives in their hands about to be set into the world. There are incredible stories of a professor changing the lives of an entire class. If a professor is only doing the minimum effort, reflecting their minimum dollar paycheck, these students will fall…hard.

That was mostly a fun tangent only slightly related to grades and should be spotlighted some other time, but the main point is that nobody is invested in the most pivotal moments of the lives of our youth. It’s not a lost cause, and changing the grading system will drastically improve the situation. But I’ve been ripping on the system the whole time and haven’t put up an alternative. Well, I don’t think much can change. A lot of what is in the curriculum can’t be altered and it has to work across the board throughout the country.

I think that grades and tests and all that crap can stay, however, a new factor should be introduced. Teachers should be allowed to increase or decrease a student’s grade based on how they behaved all semester. If a student shows that he is invested in the material, is putting in the effort, but the exams give him anxiety and he can’t do well on them, then the teacher should be allowed to give him the grade he deserves. On the other hand, if a student barely shows up, possibly cheats, and is an overall “social loafer”, then his grade should reflect his lack of contribution to the class.

Now, of course it isn’t just black and white. The teacher will be granted the ability to raise a final grade up to a full letter, and decrease it by half a letter. So if the end result is a “B”, then the teacher has the power to drop it to a “C+” or raise it as high as an “A”. Teachers aren’t teaching robots; they deserve to have a say in a student’s grade. On top of that, students will now have to be more invested in their classes. They will be forced to make a connection with the professor. No longer can a student just “get by”. And now, “number of points” is no longer the determinant of your final grade. If you build a relationship with the teacher, they will understand a bad test, or a death in the family. He teachers don’t want to “get through” a class, and neither should a student. Everyone is conceptually there to learn and grow, and this new system will help take the pressure off, and reintroduce humanity back into the classroom.

With this extra measure, students will also have to be mindful of how they act. They will learn how to match personalities. Don’t pick on someone for being a teacher’s pet; they just figured out how the two of them can mutually benefit from the situation. He gets an A, and she gets an active student, and possibly and ego boost. And, yeah, teachers can have bad semesters too. Perhaps they just went through a bad break-up and are not very friendly. Well, it’s only half a letter grade, and an A+ can only drop to an A-, so it’s not a huge deal.

Imagine Parent-teacher conferences. Instead of just a “here’s your child’s grades; if it’s good, keep at it, if not, do something, I don’t care”, it’ll be “I notice your kid is disinterested in school”, or “your kid is kind of a jerk. He’s very standoffish and thinks he’s too cool for school. Fix that.”

Of course there are probably flaws in this new measure, but I’m not gonna name ‘em. I think this is worth checking out, and, heck, it can’t make things worse. And obviously, this would need to happen parallel to an increase in teachers’ salaries. Of all the reasons to raise taxes, this is one everyone can get behind!

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