“The Perfect A”

“The Perfect A”

Posted on 25. Mar, 2014 by Becina Ganther in Features

Students and teachers discuss the importance of grades

By Becina Ganther, ’16

Senior Kathy Wu sits in front of her computer screen, waiting for the browser to open. Once her home page loads, she clicks on the link to the most visited site: PowerSchool.

Wu checks her grades every day, although recently she has been trying to decrease her PowerSchool usage.

“I used to be more picky about my grades when I was as an underclassman,” Wu said. “Now they matter less to me as long as I am learning.”

Although her new outlook on grades values learning over striving for perfect test scores, she admitted that not everyone agrees with her, and that grades can still be a stressful subject.

girlpowerschoolappgrades AM“There is a lot of pressure to get good grades from teachers, colleges, parents and myself,” Wu said.

Wu is not alone in her confusion over grades. Spanish teacher Richard Duarte has noticed misconceptions concerning grades from both teachers and students.

“From a teacher’s perspective, we assume that [students] have an idea of what grades mean,” Duarte said. “Then students look at [teachers] and say, ‘OK, I think I know what you think it means.”

The current grading system has various flaws that are not often discussed. Language arts teacher Nancy Volksen believes that many of the problems outweigh the positives.

“Grades are a necessary evil [that] can get in the way of learning,” Volksen said.

One of the main problems is the level of stress that grades cause for students. Math teacher Mike Hunt said that worrying about grades comes from an overemphasis on receiving that perfect A.

“It’s unfortunate that such a high importance is placed on grades,” Hunt said. “This can lead a lot of students to a lot of stress.”

Importance of Grades

Students and teachers alike have differing viewpoints on the importance of grades and their impact on learning. Science teacher Curt Bixel views learning as a top priority.

“A lot of students work to get good grades,” Bixel said. “And by working to get good grades, they end up learning, and they end up accomplishing what’s most important anyhow.”

However, not all students view grades as a useful motivator for learning. Senior Hank Worster believes grades have no impact on his learning. Instead, Worster said that learning information that he thinks is important and interesting motivates him to do well in school.

Grades are not only potentially useful in high school; they can also be important for students’ future aspirations, such as college.

“On one end, [grades] don’t matter at all,” Bixel said. “But if your plans are taking you to college, …then you need good grades.”

For those who feel that grades are important, maintaining good grades seems like a necessary step to success.

Duarte feels that the best way for students to raise grades is take initiative for their learning.

“Be proactive rather than reactionary,” Duarte said.

Apathy Towards Grades

Although many believe that effort is more important than simply getting good grades, not all students are trying their best. Sophomore Gabriella Angelis believes teacher disinterest can cause student apathy.

“I think some teachers try really hard to reach out to students who aren’t trying, but other teachers don’t really care about their students who aren’t doing well in their classes,” Angelis said.

On the other hand, freshman Zoey Merchant thinks that apathetic students shouldn’t rely solely on teachers to take initiative.

“There should be more communication between students and teachers,” Merchant said. “But more importantly, students need to be proactive and ask the teacher themselves.”

Regardless of the cause of this apathy, the resulting low grades can be a problem. Wu believes that students should care about their grades because poor grades can have a long-lasting negative impact on their futures.

“If not caring about your grades means that you don’t care about school too, you’d better have either a set-in-stone life plan or shape up,” she said. “Many long-term goals cannot be accomplished without a proper education.”

Not everyone agrees with Wu’s claim that grades are crucial to success. For students who aren’t concerned about grades, Worster recommends a more laid back approach to schoolwork: “Care enough to pass your classes and try to get above a 3.0. Otherwise, just keep on keeping on,” Worster said.

The differing opinions of grades suggest that beginning an open discussion about grades might be a worthwhile goal. If students and teachers make time for an ongoing dialogue about grades and learning, they may find greater success in high school and beyond.

Wu closes out of the PowerSchool tab and reaches for her book bag. While she is still worried about her report card, she realizes that grades aren’t the most important part of her education, and she is determined to stay focused on her main goal: learning.

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