Why the current grading system is detrimental to the education of our youth


Ko, Amy J. “Grading Is Ineffective, Harmful, and Unjust - Let's Stop Doing It.” Medium.com, Bits and Behavior, 15 Oct. 2021, medium.com/bits-and-behavior/grading-is-ineffective-harmful-and-unjust-lets-stop-doing-it-52d2ef8ffc47.

F’s take away the fun and excitement out of learning.


Waking up for school at 6 o’clock on a Friday morning. Only 3-4 hours of sleep after studying all night for an upcoming math test. Exhausted. Drowsy. Dazed. Arriving at school an hour later trying to cram as much knowledge as you can on the car ride there. Doing the same 5 minutes before class. The test begins and soon after ends. After studying all night, you’re feeling a bit confident, you have to have done great, right? Monday morning, walking into class. Grades are posted. You failed. After all that hard work? An F? Was it all a waste of time? Did you even learn anything?

This is what the current grading system does to us as students. Hard work and learning thrown to the side because of a bad grade. Moving on with that F and not learning any more about that specific subject after the test.  While many students work hard to do well in classes, things don’t always work out in their favor. This leads to cheating and plagiarism as well as any other way to get work done quickly and efficiently. Because at the end of the day, every student knows the status quo. Getting a good grade is more important than actually learning anything. At Least that’s what it is in our current education system.


The current grading system has been around for what may feel like forever, however it hasn’t been around for as long as we might think. According to Jeffery Schinske and Kimberly Tanner, two tenured biology professors at De Anza College and San Francisco State University, state, “Surprisingly, the letter grades most of us take for granted did not gain widespread popularity until the 1940s. Even as late as 1971, only 67% of primary and secondary schools in the United States used letter grades”. While this system has not been around for the longest, it has definitely affected the way students are taught as well as how they learn or do not learn certain subjects. Beginning my senior year of high school, feeling stressed and overwhelmed is part of the package, as many other seniors can attest to. However, on top of college resumes, FAFSA applications, and deciding what one may want to do after graduation, classes become a hassle to handle all together. The grading system has brought stress to many students over and over again, and as a senior, I’m starting to feel it as well.


The current grading system in today’s education takes away from actual learning in the classroom. Gerald E. Knesek, a college professor at Eastern Michigan University who has taught in the classroom for nearly 40 years, states, “What’s apparent in all this focus on grades is that there’s no real emphasis on learning—the true purpose of education”(Knesek, 2022). Instead of valuing learning, we as students have become accustomed to the rewards as well as punishments that are grades. Grades have become the deciding factor in today’s educational system that tells us whether we are smart or not. Whether we are working hard or slacking off. Whether we will be successful as adults or not. Instead of making mistakes and learning from them, we are taught to strive for perfection the first time around. Pass every test. Get all the A’s. It’s what we are told since we begin the first day of school as children. However, grades should not be the deciding factor, and while many people believe in grading reform, no change has been made, leaving us all stuck in the same system, just like it has always been.


In addition to obsessing over the perfect grades, the current grading system also leaves a lot of room for subjective grading which may also be seen as inaccurate. Derrick Meador, the superintendent for Jennings Public Schools in Oklahoma, said the traditional grading scale is easy to control and use to one’s advantage because it is subjective by its very nature. (Meador, 2019). For those who may not understand, this means teachers have different ideas of what an A is. One teacher might give an A for participation and completion while another might give grades based on the quality of your work and your answers. This simple fact shows how inaccurate the grading system may be at showing the actual level students are at and what they need to work on in order to improve their education. An example of this is explained by Thomas R. Guskey, Ph.D, a professor emeritus in the College of Education at the University of Kentucky, when he said, “90 high school teachers—who had received nearly 20 hours of training in a writing assessment program—to grade the same student paper on a 100-point percentage scale. Among the 73 teachers who responded, scores ranged from 50 to 96” (Guskey, 2013). He then goes on to explain how these are just teachers specifically trained to grade writing assessments, not counting those who aren’t. This goes to show how inaccurate grades can be.


While there has not been much grade reform for years, some Universities still try their best to find new reforms, and from there see what works best, Brown University is one of them. According to Brown University, an ivy league School in Rhode Island, “In most undergraduate and graduate level courses a student may, in consultation with the advisor, elect to be graded on a basis of either A, B, C/No Credit or Satisfactory/No Credit. All courses, except in cases of Mandatory S/NC courses, default to A, B, C/NC upon initial registration” (Brown University). This means that grades do not go lower than a D, No plus, or Minus, and students can choose how their classes can evaluate whether they learned enough to pass or take the class again. Another fact not mentioned in this quote is Brown also doesn’t record failed grades or classes. Here we see a highly-ranked University seeking grade reform, so in other words, why can’t other schools, colleges, and universities do the same?


While some may disagree with this point and make the argument that grades help provide feedback to students who may find it useful, there are simply other ways to do that. In one way, current grading gives students feedback from faculty members written in comments which can be seen as helpful to many because it can lead to improvement (Schinske and Tanner, 2014). Feedback can be given by speaking to a student, writing them an email on what to improve on, giving comments on papers submitted and so much more. We do not need to tell a child they failed at something in order for them to try and get better at it. Instead of punishing a student for poorly done work, we should teach, and give students a second chance to prove to not just teachers, but to themselves that they are capable of doing more than they think.


So think about it. Really think about it. Instead of grading students on how they failed, accomplish them on how they did well and from then on give feedback on how to improve. Now isn’t that a bit more motivating than giving out the F and being done with it? Maybe there are better ways to go about it. Think about how we can improve ourselves to make sure students are learning and getting ready for the real world as well. Then come back and present your thoughts. It’s a grade. Do it right.


“Brown University.” Grades | Office of the Registrar. Web. 25 Oct. 2022.

Guskey, Thomas R. “The Case Against Percentage Grades.” University of Kentucky. Uknowledge, 2013. Web. 25 Oct. 2022.

Knesek, Gerald E. “Why Focusing on Grades Is a Barrier to Learning.” Harvard Business Publishing Education. 24 Apr. 2022. Web. 25 Oct. 2022.

Meador, Derrick. “Pros and Cons of Utlizing a Traditional Grading Scale.” ThoughtCo. ThoughtCo, 15 July 2019. Web. 25 Oct. 2022.

Minori, Madeline. “Grades vs Educational Knowledge.” Chapman Learning Commons. 26 Mar. 2021. Web. 25 Oct. 2022.

Schinske, Jeffrey, and Kimberly Tanner. “Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently).” Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently). American Society for Cell Biology, 2014. Web. 25 Oct. 2022.