A is for awesome F is for failure: A look into grading


Salvador DelVecchio, Special to the NL

It was the beginning of the fourth marking period.  Calvin Voss (11) was looking forward to playing on his golf team in the upcoming months.  But his hopes were dashed when his low grade wouldn’t make the cut.  The next couple of weeks were very stressful for Voss.  Not only did he have to maintain his other grades, but he also had to bring his already poor grade up to “average” circumstances.  After several weeks of hard labor, Voss managed to bring his grade back up in the nick of time and have the opportunity to play on the golf team.  

 When asked about how he felt about the PNHS grading system, Voss replied, “It doesn’t show what the students actually learned.” and felt that a progressional system would be a much better way to illustrate what the students learned in that class.  Millions of cases related to Voss’s have occurred all over the country-many over the same thing: Grades. In some schools outside of Portage Northern they are abandoning the old school way of grading and transitioning to a new method of learning.  This “new system” trashes the letter grade, and recycles it with a new idea, where the teachers give each student their own personal assessment.  The purpose is to help students better understand content without having to stress over the next big test or exam.

 “Grades can put pressure and anxiety on students,” said Alyssa Methany (9).  Lets face it, when relatives come to visit and they ask you how school is going, you immediately respond with either of the following: I got all As, I did okay, or simply, I failed everything.  Instead of telling them what you learned, you tell them what grades you received.  Such is similar in the outside world where everything is graded and put up to a scale to see whether it is “Golden” or “Rotten.” Such is the impression when students receive their grades.  An all A student feels special or “Golden,” while the complete failure child feels “Rotten.” “When I get a bad grade, I feel defeated,” said Methany.  According to James Leary at ASCD,

[Grades] often create needless anxiety, shame, or disappointment for many students and parents.

— James Leary, ASCD

Grades have always been a controversy on the campus of Portage Northern.  Some people feel it should change, others not so much.  Such as Fernando Trice (12), who said, “We should stick to a letter grade system, it is on your part to pass or fail.” Other students, such as D.J Prentiss (12) agreed, “ They reflect the effort you put in,” said Prentiss, “I’d rather stick to the letter grade system.” The letter grade system has always been popular with teachers at Portage Northern.  This may be why the letter grade system has been around as long as it has, because as almost all teachers have said, it is as simple as it gets.  Instead of a teacher having to write a specific assessment for each and every one of his students, he can simply sum it all up in one grade.    Robert Eustice, a teacher at Portage Northern, said, “Grades are convenient,” but on the downside, “They indicate what you know at that moment.”

To change the letter grade system, or not to change the letter grade system will always be a hot topic around the school with arguments on both sides of the gridiron.  But in the words of Sonja Maybee (9), “It would be a great thing to try.”