Are Students Going To School To Learn or For the Grade?

It’s complicated!

From my take on the education system, there is a certain issue that has made me curious for a long time – do students come to school to really learn or are they more interested in the grade they receive?

An article written by teacher Ashley Lamb-Sinclair discusses how she and her colleagues spend six weeks of a semester without grading their students.They concluded, “We saw the negative impact grades made on our students’ mental and emotional health.”

Also, once she put grades into the grading program it was only a matter of minutes before students came knocking on her door about their grade or parents started emailing her about their child’s grade.

The article illustrates the bad effect grades have on students. During the six weeks without grades, Lamb-Sinclair and her colleagues found students more engaged in their learning.  She noticed that students would work freely without having to worry about a negative grade coming in.

Throughout the six week time period, parents were content and felt like they were really involved in their students lives as they loved the weekly teacher updates. When time came to start putting in grades again, Lamb-Sinclair started to get angry emails and calls from parents about why they were no longer getting so many updates, and why their child’s grades would go up and down.

For a majority of high school students, school is exhausting. Of course, everybody gives it their all, especially teachers. They try their best to give students the best education and make learning  enjoyable. But there is only so much they can do.

Much research discusses students’ mental health. I think mental health definitely contributes to whether a student will be at school or not. One morning a student may not feel like they have the energy to get up and do work for nearly eight hours; yet, most students get up and go because they feel they have to  or their parents make them go.

Some schools and even laws have given students a certain number of mental health days they can take off. In January 2022, Illinois law will allow five days off for mental health. However, what will exactly happen after students use all of their days. Students still will not want to come to school. Every week, most students and most likely teachers hope for Friday to come sooner. I think that should be a wake-up call that the educational system is failing students and putting the emphasis on grades over learning.

An example that contributes to a student’s grade is the retaking of summative assignments.  When you take a regular test/quiz, you get it back after it has been graded. You may learn that you didn’t do as well as you thought and your grade dropped one or more letter grades. With that happening, you tell your teacher you want to retake it. Are students retaking the test because they want to learn the material and make sure they comprehend it, or do they just retake it because they cannot have a low grade?

This issue is complicated.  You can take grades out of the equation, but if that happened, many students wouldn’t even care to attend school. They would not see a good reason to show up. However,  on another note, when it comes to going to school, many parents are the reason their child regularly attends school.

If I were to talk about myself, my parents are not the kind to let me take off. Of course, every student has different parents, lives, mental health issues, etc. With so many different things to take in account, understanding the motivation to attend school and learn material makes this issue really difficult to understand a student’s mindset as to whether they go to school to learn or to get a good grade in the class.

In my opinion, I really think that a higher percent of the population of students only care to go to school because they get a grade. I think if grades were not such a strong part of school, many students wouldn’t show up to class anymore. So, the answer to the question as to whether students come to school for the grade or the learning is one that will continue to be debated in classrooms around the country for many years to come.