School grades increase in difficulty with progressive brain development


Featured image by Madison Wright.

Ji-Sung Lee

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he website Top Tens rank the most difficult school years and junior year of high school starts the list while pre-school comes in the rear. As junior year determines standardized test scores, and students begin the college admissions process, the high ranking of this frustrating grade is understandable.
Though a simple task such as being potty trained is taught in preschool, this task to toddlers is far from easy. To high schoolers, tasks such as reciting numbers and identifying basic shapes comes naturally.  But to young learners, it’s just as hard to them as exams are to teens.
As students advance throughout their school years, it’s no surprise that the information they learn becomes more challenging. While kindergartners may be learning how to spell their names, high schoolers are in the midst of learning protein synthesis and calculus derivatives.  However, the grade’s curriculum is a reflection of students’ mental capacity at the time.
“Overall every school year increases in difficulty,  sophomore Caroline Curtright said.  “Most students get smarter and learn new tactics for studying.”
As students complete a grade and go on to the next, the new information students can expect to learn may be more difficult.  In reality, however, a student’s brain is also developing just as they grow in intellectual ability.
USA Today College said the human brain is composed of cells called neurons, which are made up of many parts, including brain fibers. When students learn, these brain fibers grow.  The larger the brain fibers grow, this increases the amount of information that can be stored.
However, brain fibers only grow from already existing ones. To learn new information, a person must build on the knowledge they already have. Students should have a strong understanding of the initial content if they wish to accomplish more advanced learning.  As students progressively learn more complicated information, it is fitting to a specific grade because they have already learned the foundational facts.
While any AP student can argue that the tricky concepts they need to memorize is more demanding than simplifying fractions, the schoolwork students receive is appropriate for the mental capacity of each grade.  
When it comes to making stronger connections, practicing the skill  is necessary. USA College Today states that this is because constant practice allows the brain fibers to grow thicker.  The signals are then able to carry information faster.  Therefore, continually practicing a given skill can help it to stay in the brain more permanently.  This indicates that previous facts learned in past grades only act as practice for the harder details to come.
[quote]“Some classes might be challenging at first, but I think your learning builds off what you already know to make sense of new ideas,” senior Rebecca Rubinstein said.[/quote] Just as it takes time for any student to study for tests, it is equally challenging to a child learning simple tasks.
I think the level of difficulty in each grade is fair as it is because in elementary school you start out learning how to read and write, which are two important skills that you will always need to be able to use in any grade,” Rubinstein said. “If you didn’t build off your past learning, you wouldn’t be able to understand more challenging subjects.  For example, a first grader wouldn’t understand geometry without knowing their shapes and numbers. But it takes practice and years of development to get there.”
But in other cases, when students reach high school and college, pupils are able to choose classes.  This often times allows them to challenge themselves, if they wish.
“I feel like it depends for each person [and] how much they can handle both mentally and physically.  Once you’re in high school and college, you can choose to challenge yourself,” 2016 alumna and University of Missouri-Columbia freshman Stephanie Kang said. “Some students choose to challenge themselves but others don’t.”
Each year, with a new grade, teachers work to train students for the next level of work.  Though it may appear harder when compared to the addition and pre-algebra from middle school, in reality, the work that is taught is appropriate.
“Every year that you go up is appropriate for brain development.  The teachers train you at lower to higher levels that build skills over time,” Curtright said.  “In certain subjects the entire jump from one grade to the next makes sense with brain development.”
Do you think grades get harder each year? Let us know in the comments below.