The Secret Damage of Having Grades

Kathy Li

“Without grades, students would be less afraid to be wrong,” says Meredith Chadwick. She was asked a series of questions about how grading harms learning. “There would be a more open environment to learn if grades weren’t such a big deal,” she says.

School would be better for students if teachers didn’t use number grades to evaluate students.

Some students will take courses that don’t necessarily interest them or will take what they think is an “easy” course to raise their GPA says Brianna Crowley, when asked the same interview. Without grades, students could pursue what interests them without the worry.

Josh Hagan, Hershey High School senior, confessed that he didn’t understand what he was learning in AP Physics. He started memorizing problems so he wouldn’t get a bad grade on a test. He didn’t understand anything though and didn’t know how to apply it in real life. He recalls the first question when an assignment is assigned always being, “Is this graded?” and asking himself, “Why am I learning this?” and the answer was that he needed to know this for the test and to obtain a good grade.

Having grades makes students competitive. There are so many smart people in Hershey that people fight to be better, and then an “A” isn’t good enough. Grades rank and label people. “Labels define people and as soon as the student is ranked, people become more competitive to get a better grade,” says Hagan.

Mary Sherry, a adult literacy learning teacher has written an article about how teachers should use the threat of failing to motivate students. Sherry writes “In Praise of the F Word,” that flunking kids and holding grades over their heads motivates students to do the work. Sherry feels that “students would be better off if students had a ”healthy fear of failure” (Sherry 552).

However, a new study, “The Scarring Effects of Primary-Grade Retention? A Study of Cumulative Advantage in the Educational Career” by Notre Dame sociologist Megan Andrew, published September 2014, in the journal Social Forces states that retention, or repeating a grade, is harmful.

Andrews study contained two large sets of data and concluded that students who repeat a grade between kindergarten and fifth grade are 60% less to graduate high school than kids with similar backgrounds, and even 60% less to graduate than siblings in the same family.

Andrew continues to state that authors who write about grade retention find that it not only decreases the chance of graduation of secondary education, but it also decreases the chance of post-secondary education by 15 to 75 percent.

In the two sets of data Andrews has gathered, she has discovered early primary retention decreases the chance of high school completion by 75% in one data sample and 60% in the other. In the same data sample, it has concluded that grade retention will decrease post-secondary education by 45%.

Michelle Kindt, middle school French teacher, agrees with this research. Kindt thinks that failing and holding grades over students heads should not motivate students. She thinks that it is the teacher’s job to motivate and inspire kids. Kindt thinks that holding grade over a students head is not the best way to motivate them.

Grade not only are harming learning by taking away from the knowledge, but grades being used as motivation is not helping students to accomplish what is wanted. Instead, grades are causing damage to everyone whether they disregard learning for a grade, or they have been retained because of a grade.