Grading is Necessary

May 19, 2008
By Priyanka Virmani, Winchester, VA

Can you imagine school without grading? Although grading is not perfect, it is necessary for teachers and students for the reasons of sorting, motivation, feedback, and to give as much equal opportunity as possible.

Sorting is an evaluation of students to sort them into groups. Sorting is helpful for teachers to help guide students onto the right path. There are three different reasons why people are concerned with sorting (Kohn). The first reason asks the question, are we placing students in to the right groups. What better way is there to determine the right group for a student than long term evaluation? Rather than calling it a group or a pile, students are guided into taking certain classes in order to help them determine their strengths and weaknesses, interests and disinterests, and to help them reach their goals. Grade inflation is making it hard for schools and jobs to establish a difference in students because it is becoming so easy for them to do well. This does not validate taking grades away, but does give reason for making grading scales stricter or encouraging students to take harder and more advance courses. Grade inflation could also be a good thing because it puts more importance on the students who can receive good evaluations in not only school, but sports, community service, and other extra curricular activities. Grade inflation has brought attention to the well rounded students who are able to keep a well rounded and balanced, healthy life.

The second reason battles the discussion on the reliability on grades. This argument starts with the reliability of teachers. It is easy for a teacher to change grades, or be prejudice to certain students but it is not easy for them to go about it undetected. An example of another argument is that different grades are given to students who turned in work at different times, like points being taken off for lateness. Students are not only being evaluated on their book smarts, their intelligence, or their memory, but their willingness to apply themselves also. Application is just as important, or maybe even more important, as knowledge. Why reward a student who does not want something as bad as another does?

Many people think that sorting should not be done at all. Without sorting, more knowledgeable, applied, and faster learning students will be held back and students that need more time, help, and motivation may not be learning. One cannot move on without being comfortable with what has already been taught or they will be put back even more. Schools are not bargain basements or screening agencies, but a place with equal opportunity for everyone to receive and education in order to follow their dreams and grades are used to help them to get there.

Motivation is another important factor when it comes to grading. An experiment was conducted to test motivation using rats. There were three test groups; the first group of rats had to find their way through the maze with no food, the second group had was given no food for the first half of the days and was then given food for the second half, and the third group was given food right away. The results showed that the group with food as a motivator found their way through the maze a lot faster then the other groups and was able to do it again and again after that. The group with no motivator took a longer period of time to find their way and would not repeat the maze. The last group eventually found their way and repeated it but took their time. These results clearly show that rewards are good motivation that helps people to learn better. When a prosecutor is prosecuting someone for a trial, the number one thing they must prove is that the suspect has a motive, thus proving that motivation is what causes human actions. Money, power, love, happiness, other materialistic things, and emotions are all also motivators just like grades, are we getting rid of those too?

Don’t we all just want to relax all day and have no worries? Do you want to wake up and learn about history or how to do a math problem or even about plants? It may be true that motivation is not needed for things of common interest, but basic knowledge that everyone must know and learn as a child is not always interesting to everyone. Therefore a motivation is required. Grades take the role of this motivation that is required for people to obtain basic knowledge. People argue that making grades a motivator for learning takes away from actually wanting to learn, but it is only something extra for people who need the motivation. To learn something that you take an interest in, there is no need for one to even pay attention or think about grades. It might be said that with no attention to grades, someone could fail and not get anywhere with their interest. Studies have been done to show that without paying attention to grades, one will actually do better (Kohn). Grades are a motivation for people who need it, and can be ignored by the people who don’t.

Feedback plays a very important role in learning. Grades are used as feedback for not only the students but the teachers as well. Grades on assessments help the teacher to know how much and where the student needs help in improving. It is very important that a student receives feedback so that they can do better the second time than the first time. Students use grades and feedback to learn from their mistakes so that they don’t make it again and to know how much more they need to learn to reach their goal, or what weaknesses they must focus on. Although letter and number grades don’t tell someone what they need to work on, corrections and comments are also made. The letter and number grades are used to analyze feedback after a long period of time. For example: feedback on improvement and room for improvement.

Even now, there is discrimination in grading. Without the structure and confirmation of grades, teachers and evaluators will have a great deal more freedom to discriminate against race, sex, color, national origin, religion, disability/handicap, as well as ancestry, creed, age, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, and parental status.

Sorting, motivation, and feedback and equal opportunity are three strong reasons why grading is necessary for learning. Grading helps students to be guided, gives them reassurance, helps them to stay focused on a long term goal, and is the fairest way possible.

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