Grades Vs. Learning

Getting the perfect grade has become a priority over learning new information among DHS students

By Jimmy Fortuna-Peak

What do you want get out of high school? is a common question DHS students receive on their first day of their freshman year. Many will have different answers to this question such as an athletic scholarship, great memories with friends, finishing with academic honors, etc. While these are all important, very few actually care about learning the information taught in class.

A recent survey discovered that more than 60 percent of DHS students care more about the grade they receive in class than learning the new information being taught. While this news may be puzzling, being that the point of going to school is to make us smarter, there are some factors that have led students to think this way.

Many of the classes that DHS offers receive little interest from students, thus, the grade becomes the most important thing. With little impetus to do work for a class, students use any motivational tactic they can to help them perform well in school.

“I’ll remember things just for the test and then I’ll forget everything I’ve learned right after,” senior Cierra Rize said. “I care more about the grade, [and] I know I’m not alone.”

A great way to fix this problem would be to start offering classes that students are interested in. Widely requested classes such as taxes, first aid, and home economics are not offered at DHS. Adding classes that people are interested in could help students focus more on what is being taught and even enjoy the process of learning it.

While lack of subject interest may be an issue, there is little way of getting around it due to government regulations surrounding credits in each subject, as well as the need to get students ready for college. That being said, most students agree that how much they care about the information is on a class-to-class basis.

Another issue many students are having is how to adapt the information they are learning to everyday life. They spend countless numbers of hours sitting in a classroom, learning facts and equations, to never use it again after finals. If classes were to start implementing hands-on activities such as more field trips, students could get more context on why they are learning what they learn. This could be hard depending on the particular subject, but could prove to be a more engaging environment compared to the average classroom.

The main cause of the stress that the grades provide is from the universities that DHS students apply to. The pressure to take AP and IB classes in subjects that students are not even interested in causes them to worry more about looking good for their respective college rather than using the class to further their interest. Combined with students having to take government-mandated classes, the entire experience of school becomes strenuous for many.

An additional issue that DHS students face is what the true meaning of a letter grade is. Many argue that a grade shows the effort of a student rather than actual knowledge. This is especially relevant since a survey of 263 students revealed that 43 percent of DHS students have stated they would care more about what they learned if the grading system was taken away.

“[Grades] tell more about effort and how much effort [students are] willing to give towards a class,” junior Evan Chapell said. “It’s not always that, but I feel that when you get good grades there’s a lot of effort that goes into it.”

While this may be the case for many, colleges use stats such as GPA and SAT/ACT scores to determine who is admitted into their respective schools. Some colleges such as Grand Canyon University and Western Governors University have opted to get rid of a minimum GPA as an application requirement. If all universities were to take this action then there would be no need for a grading system. However, until all universities opt to not look at GPA, the pressure to get high grades will stay.

What many DHS students may not realize, though, is just how aware teachers are of their opinions on grades and school. The growing competition to get into universities has not gone under anyone’s radar. With this in mind, there have been ideas on ways to relieve the stress of grades from students as well as making classes more enjoyable.

“I think an easy thing to do would be remove class rank as a factor,” English teacher John Heuser said. “I think that would be a very simple way that we could remove a little bit of pressure from students.”

Removing class rank would allow students to focus on themselves rather than having to compare and worry about competing against their peers. Not only that, but the complication of a weighted versus regular rank makes class rank an almost outdated form of competition. Furthermore, it only compares students to other students in their own school rather than students all around Michigan or the United States.

“To get into a university you have to have a high GPA and high grades,” principle Kit Moran said. “The grade system, I think, causes us to want to get an A. I think universities are a contributing factor to that.”

As long as universities pressure applicants to strive for the highest grades possible, students will continue to focus on the grades rather than information. Even with this being a Michigan standard, the idea of a non-graded class has been brought up and tested.

Science teacher Beau Kimmey and Moran have talked about implementing classes with no grades in the future. The idea is that students would receive assessments and feedback, but wouldn’t receive an actual letter grade. Students will know how they are doing in the class, but will not have the pressure of a grade hanging over them. Furthermore, they can focus on the information and enjoy what is being taught.

Students should not anticipate this happening soon though as it will not be available for another few years if ever. But, it is a step in trying to make students learn for the information instead of the grade.

“A downside to the society we live in is that we have to grade everything,” Moran said. “My dream would be is for you guys to come to school to learn.”

While this dream may not be far fetched, it doesn’t look like any changes are going to be made to make it happen any time soon.

If the grading system was taken away, would you enjoy what is being taught more?