Stress for Success


Nikol Slatinska

The main purpose of high school, is of course, learning. These four years are meant to set up teens for the rest of our lives, and that’s why grades really start to matter.
If your GPA is not high enough, your chance at the future you want could be jeopardized before you even step foot on a college.
At least that’s what our education system teaches us to believe.
For many students, this notion takes away the importance of learning and transfers it into the need to obtain a high grade on anything they do, be it tests, quizzes, projects or homework assignments.
Why try to thoroughly understand something when you know enough to pass the exam? In 10 years, you might not remember what gravity is, but at least you graduated with honors.
Research has shown that grades diminish students’ motivation to learn, and a study by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics reported that 59 percent of surveyed high school students admitted to cheating on a test, which shows more than half of high school students are more concerned about achieving a high grade than actually trying to acquire the information.
Grades also lessen the quality of students’ learning because they end up not trying to comprehend a subject. Instead, they often just skim through the given material and cram information, causing them only to remember it temporarily.
In 1987, psychology professors Wendy S. Grolnick and Richard M. Ryan conducted a  study in which there were two groups of students. One group was told they were going to be graded on how well they learned a social studies lesson, and the other wasn’t. The group getting graded remembered fewer facts a week later and had a harder time comprehending the material than the group without grades.
Furthermore, the idea of grades completely diminishes the purpose of school, which is to learn. If there is even any benefit to having them, it’s that they make it faster for schools to measure the knowledge obtained by students though weighted percentages on assignments.
Not only is a percentage not an accurate way to measure someone’s intelligence and comprehension of a subject, but also once numbers are thrown in, it immediately becomes a competition. Everyone wants the best grade, and is upset when they cannot obtain it. This easily discourages many from even trying, and if they do their work, they’re only doing it and handing it in for points, not to challenge themselves academically.
When numbers come into the equation, students become willing to do the smallest things to get a high grade rather than push themselves with something more difficult to help understand the subject better, and when teachers grade that work, they don’t even give full feedback. Yes, many teachers score projects or essays by looking at a four point rubric, but that only tells the student how well they did on a certain component of their work, not why they got that score or how they can fix it. If students want full feedback explaining how to improve, their only resort is having a one-on-one discussion with their teacher.
The idea of not having grades can be easy to shoot down with the argument that if a student doesn’t have a GPA, they’re chances of getting into a college vanish along with their class rank. But many colleges have begun taking more holistic approaches to admissions.
Jim Bock, Dean of Admissions at Swarthmore College, number three on the Forbes Top Colleges in America list, said college administrators are more focused on things like the rigor of their high school’s curriculum, what percentage of students attend four year colleges and what the student’s teacher says about him/her as a learner. Bock also said Swarthmore receives a fair number of admissions from students without GPAs, and they are admitted at about the same rate as those with.
At Swarthmore, they take whatever the high school offers and expect there to be an accompanying profile that explains the grading system and how it works.  Bock said they can work with any system as long as it is explained by someone in authority such as a counselor. Swarthmore’s aggregate review allows for nuances across the application spectrum. Not all GPAs or school systems are created equal, which is why Bock says they ask for essays, recommendations, test scores and background information in addition to high school transcripts.
With one of the leading colleges in the country saying it’s easily possible to have admissible students without putting them through the pressure and mind-frying burden of constantly worrying about grades, it must be time for high schools to start reconsidering their current grading systems. The best grades are no grades at all, and if any school can do it, it’s Rock Bridge.
Being known across the country for having the latest start time of any school, and with the motto “Freedom with Responsibility,” RBHS has already been acknowledged as a stress-free, learning-oriented environment. Its atmosphere is the perfect place to implement this new change. There’s not much students can do without the help of school administrators. However, just by bringing up the subject to teachers and other school board members, we are closer to setting students up for future success instead of gray hairs by senior year.
By Nikol Slatinska