No Grades, No Problem

I sit down to the test.  I have studied for nights on end, yet I still feel unprepared and tremble as the test is handed out.  I feel that I have to do well on this test and get at least a 92% to keep an A in the class.  Suddenly the material no longer matters, the learning, the notes, the projects, and the effort put into the subject no longer matters.  All that I can focus on is the stream of panicky thoughts that I must get that grade to keep my A, B, or even C in the class.  We are all letters.  Grades matter more than anything else in our education future.  Grades are who we are.  A number and letter, in a student’s head, is each of our educational identities.  

Each student is continuously stressed out to receive the “perfect grades” due to severe pressure.  This pressure comes from parents, our peers, all the other students we are competing with to get into college, college itself, teachers, our high school, the IB program, and our society.  Though once we actually enter colleges the dependency to receive these “perfect grades” diminishes, but the trail to get to college is full of this grade heavy society.  According to the, the Ivy Colleges average grade received is an A, which shows how little pressure there is on grades in the most prestigious schools in the United States and world.  This leads me to believe that it is ridiculous for them to be so important within high school and to be such a large deciding factor on whether we get into a college or not.

Some high schools in the United States are beginning to move away from the grading system entirely.  One for example, St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights, New York, does not give out grades at all.  The school board does not believe in placing a numerical value on a human being.  Instead the school requires that each teacher writes a full page anecdotal report at the end of a student’s semester in their class.  In a 2004 survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal, St Ann’s was rated number one in the country for getting students into Ivy League schools.  The school from Elementary to High School includes 1,087 students and 324 faculty members, which almost matches the Aspen School District’s numbers.  This shows that this system may work at an Aspen sized school

Another option is to move towards the portfolio system.  This combines all of the student’s work throughout the year or semester to give a more holistic view on them as a student.  This lets a school see how they do on tests and assignments individually and pick out certain aspects of each topic that a student succeeds and struggles in.  This is fair for those who do poorly on tests and do well on assignments and visa versa.

Aspen is one of the most competitive public high schools in the state,  and because it is currently ranked at number one. The pressure to receive the “perfect” grades is beyond stressful for us all.  The students of AHS are becoming more and more like a letter grade instead of individual students each year.  Colleges are becoming more competitive, so the school is too.  With this ever rising competitive environment, it is important to remember all each student’s individuality.  To do so, the school district should move away from the current grading system and towards a new one, like the portfolio or anecdotal reports, to look at students as a full package, and not a simple letter grade.