Letter to the Editor: Questioning the Mental Health of Future Generations

Can standards based grading not be stressful towards students?

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Letter to the Editor: Questioning the Mental Health of Future Generations

Student mural in the library that picture students of the past and the future

Student mural in the library that picture students of the past and the future

Student mural in the library that picture students of the past and the future

Student mural in the library that picture students of the past and the future


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Dear Editor:

NHS is looking to implement the standards-based grading in the coming years. Many classes already have started with this implementation. It is a common belief that this new grading scale is inspiring perfection and not learning. Many students are told from the beginning of their school careers that perfection does not exist — no one is perfect and that the students are unique in different ways. If NHS implements this grading scale, is that not contradicting the original teachings?

Unfortunately, students will strive for perfection and not learning, if an opportunity to exceed proficiency exists. If this is going to be a successful grading scale, recognition should be earned for learning; therefore, proficiency needs to top the rankings to preserve the mental health of students. 

Teacherease defines standards-based grading as, “An innovation in education that focuses on learning and helps increase achievement. It is often combined with other standards-based instruction techniques to better engage students and foster a positive environment.” Student reporter Jacob Theisen defines standards-based grading in his article titled, Students Feel Stress, Worry and Annoyance Toward Grading Scale Shifts as, “A system of grading a student’s learning abilities, based on elaborate course objectives.” ASCD states in its article titled Seven Reasons for Standards-Based Grading that some reasons for implementing standards-based grading include: “Grades should have meaning, challenging the status quo, controlling grading practices, reducing meaningless paperwork, helps adjust instruction, teaches quality, and It is a launch pad for other reforms.” Theisen added a point from Associate Principal Tim Kachur, “Our work to move toward target-based grading will ensure that students are receiving every opportunity possible to grow as a learner.”

From these descriptions it makes this new grading scale as a positive movement. One that will move NHS out of a stone age of grading. Later in his article Thiesen interviews junior Emilee Wise who said, “I put in so much work every night to get good grades. This system makes A’s almost unattainable.” She then continued by saying this system, “Forces you to jump over impossible hurdles to be in the green.” She ends her thoughts then by saying, “For me this learning style makes my anxiety explode.” So in this one student’s description of the grading scale, it causes anxiety and points chasing or “Color chasing.” This is contradicting the thoughts that Theisen added from Principal Brian Wunderlich who stated, “This grading scale would ensure that students are focusing on their learning instead of chasing points.” Students are now color chasing or chasing for perfection.  I question what is worse:  point chasing or color chasing? Thiesen also adds to a point of stress by reporting that the teachers or departments that have made the implementation of standards-based grading are not being consistent. The science department using a color scale, Mrs. Amanda Hoff’s classes using a 1-4 scale, Mrs. Deb Gauthier and Mrs. Sara Roblee’s American Studies course utilizing a 1-10 grading scale. It is understandable that when the entire school moves to the new scale that there will be a similarity between every class, but how will that be implemented if these teachers are used to grading a certain way? The communication from the staff to the students and families could be better than it has been. Administrators did not clearly communicate with parents and students on the implementation of the 80 percent to 20 percent grading scale. The same is happening now with the standards-based grading and 100 percent to 0 percent. Thiesen also added a quote in his story from senior Maddie Meinke: “Time management between outside activities and school work is very hard. I often struggle with homework.” This is also a downside to standard-based grading because even the best of students can struggle with time management. Teachers need to start realizing many students have other activities and responsibilities after school and sometimes school cannot come first.

Additionally, Ashley McFarland in her article titled, Understanding the Standards-Based Grading Scale, McFarland added a story from Principal Wunderlich about his geometry class. He said, “ We need to put something in place so the students can walk away with from the class and be successful.” Sorry to break it to you Mr. Wunderlich, but changing a grading scale will not accomplish that goal.  This is because of the fact of the amount of work and classes on students plates. With today’s curriculum, students will learn the information, forget it, and then move on to the next standard. Students cannot be perfect because no one on Earth is perfect.

A solution for the striving for perfection aspect of this grading system is having some value associated with part mastery in a subject area. This might not be the ideal way the grading scale, but striving for perfection in this imperfect world will drive kids off the wall and then the next issue that will be facing the office is mental health conditions.  If students demonstrate proficiency, eliminate the option to exceed it to ensure mental health.

Standards-based grading sounds like a positive movement into the future of education, but the implementation of the program should have been much better than the status quo. Please though, during this implementation consider the mental health of the students affected and how this will change how they operate in the future. Is changing the grading system worth the mental health of our future generations?

Sincerely,

Paige Novachek, senior

 

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