Montgomery County, like most school districts in the country, evaluates students on a letter-based grading system. In the school’s competitive environment, students naturally begin to view their grades as reflections of themselves.
According to oureverydaylife.com, parents believe that healthy competition results from students’ association with their grades. They think that students comparing their grades to one another will motivate students to perform better in order to meet or surpass their peers, and in turn, will facilitate their learning. Each letter is assigned a set percentage of scores, which adds a level of objectivity to the calculation of a grade. Letter grades are also convenient statistics for teachers and educational analysts alike, since “they allow [them] to compare student performance,” an article on etale.org said. This ease of comparison is translated into the 4.0 unweighted grade point average scale.
While letter grades are admittedly convenient and moderately objective (besides the kindhearted teachers who are willing to bump an 89.4), they are ultimately harmful to students’ perceptions of themselves.
Freshman arrive here and see students taking four AP classes, participating in three sports, and leading two clubs, all while maintaining a 4.0. They see this overwhelming schedule as normal, and often push themselves to do the same.
In this manner, the competition here is harmful – it pushes students to their limits, may force students to sacrifice their sleep and social lives, and is ultimately detrimental to their physical and mental health. If this environment didn’t foster an unhealthy amount of distress, would we have all been made to sacrifice class time for a “stress awareness” assembly?
I understand that we can’t eliminate the letter-grade systems at the school; quantifying achievement is important for both individual motivation and governemtn metrics. We can, however, remove our ideas of self-worth from our GPAs: according to a 2002 study on apa.org, 80 percent of students make that association.
Instead, recognize that the boy with the 3.4 might work five times as hard as the girl with the 4.0. School comes naturally to some, but to others, assessment-based grading ensures that the odds are distinctly never in their favor. Evidently, effort is not always factored into your GPA.
While it’s fine to look to one’s grades as a source of pride, recognize the limitations of the isolated letters on your report card. They’re obviously important letters – ones that could sway a college decision – but sterile letters nonetheless. A student’s A’s don’t necessarily reveal a stellar work ethic – that student may have a tendency to sleep in class and just learn from his at-home tutor. A C may communicate a lack of effort, but can erase the reality of hours spent awake studying for that final test.
Whether you’re in the top or bottom percentile, a letter grade says nothing more than how you performed on assessments. Recognize that you are more than that – that you are a person with strengths and weaknesses, passions and power, laughter and life. Do not reduce yourself to an indifferent letter or number on a paper – you will only be doing yourself a disservice.