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Joseph Kaminski

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November 23, 2017

Rewards with No Risk: A Broken Grading System


The problem behind any grading system is that every single one of them relate back to standards; and the first question that could be asked is this: who is behind the structures of the grading system? On a local level, it appears as if every teacher has full control of the criteria within their subject. They run a syllabus and create the assignments in whatever way they deem necessary to have students understand the material. Looking past this, however, it becomes clear that any and all assignments relate back to the institutional grading system that looms over every student in every field.

Assignments are created and recorded as a way to monitor the “growth” of understanding within a student, but relate back to a centered grading scale that can make or break a student. A grading scale usually refers back to a structured system that creates rules and regulations; in some cases this can be the micromanagement of an administration, or it could be a district or even the Department of Education. When this happens, a sense of out-of-touch bureaucracy leads to the marginalization of assignment structure and, in turn, the broken grading system we see today.

gradesThe grading system as it exists now perpetuates a viewpoint of “the higher the grade, the better you are.” It no longer matters how good a student can apply knowledge to everyday experiences or relate back to certain assignments to expand their thought process as a higher-leveled student.

All that matters is that the average student is to be able to ‘vomit’ what they can recall from the lecture (or through Wikipedia) onto a sheet of paper to get the highest marks possible. This creates the reward of a good grade but the risk of making typical assignments unremarkable and/or unimportant to the typical student’s education.

There is a strict learning method that seems to focus on performance rather than learning, and it has caused students are inclined to enhance their performance in the class rather than their understanding on the overall subject. Copying information down, rather than digesting it and taking the time to apply the subject, is encouraged and rewarded because of the focus on assignment structure.

The average student – regardless of education level – is more focused on meeting the criteria of an assignment rather than comprehension. This creates a system that harms the student in the long run; while a student might have proven to be disciplined and have a strong work ethic, this does not mean he is versed in the subject matter. This creates scenarios where classes relate back to previously learned content under the assumption that the student understands said topic because he performed well in the classes prior.

Essentially, it seems that the biggest flaw within the American grading system is that students are assigned summative work that exists simply to meet the required criteria and other forms of work that do nothing but force them to vomit what they had “learned” without really applying it to anything. No assignment should simply be to “summarize” or to paraphrase; and no worthwhile higher-leveled question should revert to the bureaucratic nonsense that controls the majority of public and private education. Benchmarks appear to be mandatory and above all else in our modern day education system, and it becomes a slippery slope when we begin to grade students based on such.

Learning should be more hands-on, eye-opening, and memorable comparative to the way our education system has treated this generation.

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