It’s graduation time, hopes are high, and the energy is empowering, but this won’t last long.  What many students may not be aware of is that, in a relatively short amount of time, they will be on their own, and even worse than this, most of them won’t be prepared.According to a Washington Post article in 2011, two-fifths of high school graduates aren’t prepared for college or the workforce. This is a huge problem, and while some would blame it on the students, with a percentage this high, there must be some other explanation.  In the current system, students are afraid. They may not show it openly, but the fear is there. What is this fear? one may ask. The youth in high school are afraid of being wrong, they are afraid that, if they mess up on an assignment or test, it will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Of course, what’s the problem with this system, it gets students to do their work, right?  Yes, but there’s the root of the problem, students are gaining their motivation from fear of penalty rather than a love of learning.  Currently, high schools are teaching students that if they mess up, it is all over, there is no redemption.  This is incredibly detrimental to these kids’ futures.  According to Georgetown University, around 96% of jobs require critical thinking and active listening to be either very important or extremely important to success.  With a system that, for the most part, only provides one solution and discourages risks, how are we supposed to promote critical thinking and active listening, especially when students don’t care what’s being taught?There needs to be a system which instills a love of learning and teaches the next generation that mistakes aren’t inherently bad and that we can improve and retry. This is why due to the high percentage of students who are fearful for the welfare of an arbitrary grade, the United States education system ought to move towards a non-penalizing grading system.Replacing the Status QuoTo put it simply, the current grading system is flawed.  There needs to be a change, but what should this change include?  To start off, the problems of the current system must be addressed.  The purpose of any grading system is to inform both the students and their parents as to the state of their learning.  The problem is that a letter symbol is an extreme underrepresentation of a student’s level of learning (Heick, n.d.).  It doesn’t explain how well a student understands the material or any external circumstances.  “Grading does not promote learning or retention; it is mere ranking. Elbow defines this as ‘summing up one’s judgment . . . into a single, holistic number or score'” (Potts, 2010).  A student may know next to nothing on a particular subject but if they are good at short-term memorization or test-taking, they will achieve the “A”.  This ranking does not promote helpful citizens, rather, it will push people towards pride and selfishness, neither of which are wanted in society.There needs to be a new system which encourages learning, rather than cramming.  A system where students are willing to take risks and make mistakes because they know they will be able to reevaluate and rework their assignment.   The Plan    In order to save the education system, a new way to grade must be implemented.  This system will include the allowance of assignment revisions to promote actual learning.  Students will be able to explain what didn’t go right the first time, such as misunderstanding the material or personal dilemmas stunting their ability to perform.  And finally, zeros will be replaced with incompletes.  This will allow teachers to grade based on a student’s knowledge, rather than behavior, because isn’t that what grades are supposed to do in the first place? (Rigsbee, 2012)Benefits of a New SystemLearning Levels will IncreaseWith the current system, students are often discouraged from doing something different. While there is some benefit, this method is not conducive to preparing students for “real life”. As well, many students often don’t have the right motivation for working hard in school.  They seem to do it out of fear, rather than out of a desire to learn.  By implementing a system where students are given the option to rework an assignment, they will be able to figure out what was done wrong and learn from their mistakes.  This learning from mistakes also helps prepare students for their after-school life.  In the “real world”, success only comes after reworking many mistakes.  “Professionals actually flourish through redos, retakes, and do-overs.  Surgeons practice on cadavers before doing surgeries on live patients.  Architects redesign building plans until they meet all the specifications listed”(Wormeli, 2011).  If people are forbidden from correcting mistakes, how are they ever going to improve and progress?  Being able to revise work is a huge benefit that would be gained if the grading system were improved.Students will be Less Inclined to CheatThe second reason why a non-penalizing grading system ought to be instituted is that cheating levels should go down.  According to Harvard Graduate School of Education (2016), “Peer pressure makes students cheat. Sometimes they have a reason to cheat like feeling like they need to be the smartest kid in class…Students cheat because they think if they cheat all the time they’re going to get smarter.”  By using a grading method that discourages competition and encourages learning, the motivation to cheat will diminish and the rate at which it is occurring will go down with it.Refutation    Although this new grading system provides a wide variety of benefits, some students and teachers would prefer to keep the current method.  Claims against changing the grading system include the idea that students will no longer be motivated to work, as well as that teachers will be unwilling to change.Removing the Fear will Remove the Motivation    With the current grading method, students do their work as best they can because they fear the consequences of getting something wrong.  Some fear is good, but when students do their work only because of fear, this becomes detrimental.  However, many teachers believe that if students aren’t greatly punished for getting something wrong or turning in late work, the students won’t do the work at all.  This is a valid fear, but one that will not be realized.  In fact, according to Schinske and Tanner (2014):Grades can dampen existing intrinsic motivation, give rise to extrinsic motivation, enhance fear of failure, reduce interest, decrease enjoyment in class work, increase anxiety, hamper performance on follow-up tasks, stimulate avoidance of challenging tasks, and heighten competitiveness (Harter, 1978 ; Butler and Nisan, 1986 ; Butler, 1988 ; Crooks, 1988 ; Pulfrey et al., 2011 ). Even providing encouraging, written notes on graded work does not appear to reduce the negative impacts grading exerts on motivation (Butler, 1988 ). Rather than seeing low grades as an opportunity to improve themselves, students receiving low scores generally withdraw from class work.The current grading system is dampening the real reason why students should do their work, because they want to learn.  By moving on from the status quo, students will be more willing to learn because they want to, rather than because they are forced to.Unwillingness to Change    Many people try to avoid change.  Change is new, different, and often uncomfortable.  An argument against implementing a non-penalizing grading system is that the current method has been around for such a long time, why should it change?  The thing is, students aren’t getting the education they need.  They aren’t leaving with the life skills which will make them successful.  By changing the system, teachers can help students become more learning driven and students will learn that making mistakes can actually be a good thing.ConclusionIn conclusion, schooling takes up a huge part of an adolescent’s life, so if schooling isn’t effective, what use is it?  Throughout this paper, it has been shown that in the status quo, the benefits of adopting a less-penalizing grading system outway the costs.  Public schooling has problems, but fortunately, there are solutions, and these solutions, as has been discussed, will reform the current education system into one that will prepare the students of both today and tomorrow, for the rest of their lives. ReferencesCarnevale, A. P., Smith, N., & Strohle, J. (2013, June). Recovery: Job growth and education requirements through 2020. Retrieved from, M. (2014). Grading smarter, not harder. Retrieved January 16, 2018, from, T. (n.d.). 12 alternatives to letter grades in education. Retrieved January 16, 2018, from, Z. (2016, July 19). Why do students cheat?. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from, G. (2010). A simple alternative to grading. The Journal of the Virginia Community Colleges. Retrieved from, C. (2012, May 8). Grade the work, not the behavior. Retrieved January 18, 2018, from, J., & Tanner, K. (2014). Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently). CBE Life Sciences Education, 13(2), 159–166., D. D. (2011, December 12). Study: Two-fifths of high school graduates are unprepared for college or the workforce. Retrieved January 16, 2018, from, R. (2011). Redos and retakes done right PDF. Effective Grading Practices, 69(3).Retrieved from %20Done%20Right.pdf


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