Before you start reading this, just know that I didn’t intend for this to be so long. Words kept flowing, and now that I’m looking back I’ve realized just how many words have flowed… sorry.
So a few weeks ago, school grades, or report cards if you will, were released into the eager (or dreading for that matter) hands of students attending my school. As always, these final grades are reports that I wait for, checking the website our grades are posted on far too often for any psychologist to consider healthy, in order to know what grades I received as soon as they are available. By now, since several weeks have passed, through the technological social hubs such as Facebook or the simple text, the majority of my grade has an understanding of how each individual peer fared when it came to the numbers that classify our performance. Slightly more recently, I attended a graduation party, where several people commented how they were helping out with the school’s summer school program. How do these two things connect? Well, I’ll get to that in just a moment; I’ve been thinking for a while now, and two thoughts hit me concerning grades and summer school, and I’m going to attempt to connect them through writing, for abstract thoughts in my head don’t seem to be working quite as well I would have hoped.
Thought 1: The grading system
Now, I suppose I may not be the best person to be criticizing the grading system considering the grading system serves me quite well, and for a while I considered not even posting this post because of it. But, the more I’ve thought about it, maybe the very fact that I excel through the current grading system is one of the reasons I should; instead of this post being a criticism from a person who the grading system does not suit (who becomes liable to just being a hater), hearing it from someone that it does might provide a different insight.
According to the internet, various experts, and whoever else would like to chime in, there is quite a bit wrong with the grading system. However, what I would like to focus on is how students are graded. In essence, when I think of grading, I think of a person with a higher education degree assigning children letters or numbers and in a way showing how he or she compares to others. I understand the concept of grading, I know how to handle it, and I know how to how to use it to my benefit. What I don’t understand is how the process comes around.
So far I’ve been talking about how I the grading system serves me quite well, and to put it into perspective, right now my GPA is through the roof (I feel sharing the actual number may not be a nice thing to do) but how did I get it there? By studying. So technically I suppose one could say my grades reflect the extent to which I study and try to understand the material and how we will be expected to use the knowledge. But this is where I start to question the grading system.
For example, take math. Math is one of the subjects I have never had a problem with, being a “math person.” Thus, due to some sort of thing happening in my brain, the subject of math does not require me to study long and hard in order to understand and utilize the concepts learned. However, (and I see this every day in class) there are some people who are not “math people” and thus learning the material takes them a significantly (yes, I can hear you scientists cringing at the use of this word) longer than it does for me. And I see these people coming in for extra help, and I’ve even helped a few that come to me for assistance, but they just seem to not be able to grasp the material. This is an issue because when it comes to test time, although they have definitely studied longer and harder than I have, often times I, who did not need to put as much effort into the work, end up with a higher grade than the people who have gone nights without sleeping attempting to grasp the concepts.
Yes, I do recognize that tests may be necessary in order to measure competency, but perhaps it is not a fair way to test people. Yes, score-wise, I may have done better than the “non-mathy people” but who put more effort into it? Clearly not me; not because I don’t care (trust me, I do) but because the subject comes naturally to me. Again, I know that tests are designed to test competency in a subject area, and I can see awarding people who have done better a higher score, but often times I feel the effort put into these tests by others are shamefully overlooked. Unlike a person, a test is a cold, copied sheet of paper that does not care or even have the capability to care for that matter about how hard the person putting their pencil upon its surface has studied; the only thing a test “cares” about is if someone gets the correct answer or not.
I truly think this method of testing competency really deters people who try extremely hard but do not seem to understand away from the system. I know how it feels to work so hard at something and ultimately fail to reach to reach the top, only because you were beaten by someone that you know didn’t put as much effort into it as you. If you don’t know that feeling, you’re either lying, or you’ve probably never done anything that was challenging to you in your life. Anyway, I really think testing deters people from trying hard again, for fear of not getting the outcome they want. At least this time, if they don’t do so well, they can just think, “well at least I didn’t waste time studying.”
TOK CONNECTION QUESTION: To what extent do tests provide a useful medium for testing and developing competency?
Thought 2 (and connection between the thoughts): The grade system
So the title of this section is “the grade system” and since it is so darn close to the other title, I was thinking of changing it, but I really like this title since it fits what I’m going to talking about next really well. So just in case you don’t want to read my into again, this next thought will stem from me talking to some recent graduates about how their work at the school’s summer school program is going.
Personally, I’ve never been to summer school, so I don’t really know what it’s like, but I’ve heard about it from some people, and I think I have a decent understanding of what it is, and how it is like. Student who are either struggling in class, would like to get ahead for next year, or whose parents feel summer school is a good option are sent for schooling over the summer. Although I recognize and admire the people who are not necessarily struggling who go to summer school, this thought focuses on those who are recommended for summer school because they are struggling in class.
Often times, a recommendation for summer school comes along with the notion that if the child does not attend summer school, the child will fail the grade, and will have to repeat the grade the next year. See, this is where I really have a problem with the educational grade system. Instead of having concrete grades that children of certain ages (for example when one is in 5th grade, one should be 10 or 11 years old) I think perhaps grades should be considered as levels one can progress through no matter what age one is. I suppose as this point it would be very hard to change the system now that everyone expects people to be in certain grades by a certain age, and failing means getting left behind by friends, but I think having a system where people can freely progress at a pace that suits their learning ability would really be beneficial for students.
This is where I will connect this thought with the last one. In the last one, I talked about students that were not able to grasp the material no matter how hard they tried. But what if the grades were like levels instead of concrete yearly grades? These struggling students who try their very best would be able to have more time to focus on the things they would like to improve in and achieve that score they want instead of having to study extremely hard, not do as well as they would like, and start a new section without even fully understanding the last unit.
I could literally (no, I suppose not literally for those literal types) go on forever about this grade system, but in the interest of preserving space on the internet, I have chosen to stop writing in order to give you, the reader a chance to explore your own thoughts. This blog post really isn’t to sway you into thinking one way or the other, but rather to give you some food for thought. Agree, disagree, passive-aggressively comment all you like. You are free to have your own opinions and you are free to criticize mine. Make up your own mind, develop your own ideas. Thoughts are just that — thoughts.
TOK CONNECTION QUESTION: To what extent does having concrete differences between grade levels help or hinder the progression of education?