Point Counter-Point: Are grades an adequate measure of student success?

April 12, 2016

Grades: those letters and numbers, sometimes checks and pluses, which we students often come to dread, especially after midterms and once the semester is over. But what do they really mean? Do they accurately portray a student’s ability? Why do they even exist? Some question the system; some are determined to get that ‘A.’ Read our columnists’ thoughts on the grade trade:

A big part of me wants to argue that grades shouldn’t be important and that they are just arbitrary letters; that they’re a racket and pointless. I want to say that we should do away with the system, and part of me thinks there is some reason to that argument.

Sure, they don’t always reflect a person’s true knowledge base, but are they still relevant?

Here’s why grades are important: because it’s the current system.

We can want to fight the power and change the way things are all we want, but we are going to get nowhere if we don’t play a little ball along the way.

As confusing or arbitrary as grades may seem, whether it is because they are given for an art class or because, how do you accurately measure one student’s improvement versus another’s when it’s not exam-based?

The reality we have to deal with at the moment is that we are in a grade-based structure, from elementary school on up, and to rebel against this, no matter how well intentioned, only hurts oneself.

Like it or not, grades are how the current educational system measures student competency.

But they have other uses, too. Grades are important for scholarships, for financial aid, especially for post-grad education and sometimes even for future employment.

If you want to advance your education beyond your undergrad degree, your grades will be important, more so than test scores or how intelligent you know yourself to be in spite of your letter grades.

Again, you have to succeed within the system if you want to have any hope of escaping it or of changing anything.

But grades are more than just a measure of how much potential aid money or success you are worth.

They also represent, for some of us, the dedication we have devoted to our studies; the respect we have for the subject, the discipline.

I know students who never read the assigned books or study for tests. Some of them can get by like that and are satisfied. If that’s how they choose to go through college, that’s their choice. It’s not mine.

My grades are a reflection of my diligence and, in part because I want to go to graduate school, I work hard to keep them up.

You’ve got to play the game if you want win, and acceptance to grad school, for me, is winning.

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Grades are such a tricky thing for students, there is a need to rate a student’s academic success, but is it an accurate way to represent a student’s capability?

Let’s be honest here, grades are a poor representation of students and their achievements. There are people, even on this campus, who receive poor grades but are excelling in their field. There are also people on campus who are straight ‘A’ students, but outside of the classroom they have accomplished little.

Getting good grades depends on the ability to do tedious busywork and to memorize material. Too many classes are teaching pointless terminology instead of concepts and ideas that have real world application. Many of the lessons that are being drilled into our heads will be outdated soon enough.

While I completely understand we need to have a scale of success, why is it based on test scores instead of overall understanding? There are people who are highly intelligent, but when it comes to tests or papers, they fall short.

Honestly, studying is hard for me. I don’t retain knowledge through reading a textbook, I learn through application and examples. My ability is far beyond my grades; I’m not defined by a simple letter grade.

One could get ‘good grades’ from memorizing terms, a book, paragraph, whatever and then use the information for an exam and score high. It doesn’t show or prove anything about their ‘intellect,’ just that they have great memorization skills.

Some highly intelligent people rarely do well in school because they find the work boring or unstimulating. And there are also smart people who suffer from learning disabilities which affect their grades.

As it is, everybody has to adapt to the same learning pattern as the usual academic grading system.

Grades never reflect a person’s ability to learn.  Aptitude is based on a student’s willingness to learn and their real world application.

Grades should not decide one’s fate in society. Everybody learns in different ways, and it is difficult to measure them on the same scale. Frankly, we shouldn’t.

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