Is the Grading System Effective?

Keegan Bentley, Writer and Editor

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     The same math paper was graded by 128 math teachers and the grades that they gave it ranged 28 to 95 percent. This clearly evinces the lack of precision that the 100 point system has. If on one paper one can fail horribly or get an A depending on who grades it then that grade cannot possibly reflect the content that one knows, but rather how the teacher thinks things should be graded or thinks is representative of someone’s knowledge, which is not necessarily correct if it is so inconsistent. The Case Against Percentage Grades states that “Some of the teachers deducted points only for a wrong answer. Others gave students varying amounts of partial credit for their work. Still others considered neatness, form, and spelling in the grades they assigned” (Starch & Elliott, 1913). The alternative to such a mess of a measurement system is the integer system, a system where one’s grade is somewhere from zero to four or five.

     Percentage grades have 60-65 degrees of failure. This means that to get from a zero to a passing grade it takes six times as many points than any other grade movement. This system also suggests that degrees of failure are more important than degrees of success. If schools were to switch to integer grades then figuring of GPA would also become quite simple. Another thing from The Case Against Percentage Grades is that the idea of percentage grades was realized because programmers and technicians found percentages to be easy to work with in their grading programs but that they weren’t necessarily the most representative way to record the knowledge of students. A teacher’s job is to educate students, but according to some teachers, there is a felicitous talk around giving students zeros. This continues to manifest the inherent subjectivity of the 100 degree system. Teachers grade things differently and sometimes with emotion and there no consistency. This lack of consistency belittles a number grade to a mere arbitrary number. Furthermore, one can go through a class, ace it, and come out without actually retaining the information. The grades of today are meaningless.

     A test is not a representation of a student’s level of proficiency. It is a measure of a student’s focus, a student’s anxiety, a student’s luck, and a student’s ability to make educated guesses. Perhaps with some specific specimen of students it might represent their proficiency but this specific population would have less anxiety, refrain from making guesses, and be more focused. There are very little, if not no, students that fit these requirements to have their proficiency represented by a test. The assessment of students should be based on one-on-one demonstration and should be measured with a four or five degree grading system.

     Grades stress students out, leading them not to perform well. When students don’t perform well their grades go down; consequently, they are sometimes punished or scolded by their parents and are also burdened with more stress. This stress works in a positive feedback loop and can bring students down. According to Stress and Depression by Karen Bruno a little stress is good for one but to much or sustained/chronic stress can lead to depression because when stress does not recede one will experience a reduction in dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitters. The reduction of serotonin can lead to anxiety as well because it’s supposed to regulate anxiety.

     The way grades are right now, students are not fairly represented and they need to  change.