I Am Not a Number: Abandoning Letter Grades

Whether you obsessively check Skyward or constantly find yourself trying to avoid it, it’s inevitable – grades seem to define our future. As students, numbers and letters hang above our heads as a proverbial anvil, ready to fall down at any moment under the crushing weight of academic expectation. Our aspirations and goals seem to lie solely upon success in school, as each setback and missed assignment piles even more stress upon our already anxious lives.

It all begins at youth- in a small school in Virginia, elementary schools have abandoned the use of letter grades. Thanks to their courageous grading policy, the word is spreading fast to other counties across the country. It seems to be a trend as one school after another substitutes number or letter grades for a long-form narrative written by each teacher.

But then we must ask ourselves– how long until Ridgewood hops on this train and stops with the nonsense of labeling students with letter grades? I notice how much people around me even in the hallways are comparing their grades with their friends; I can’t lie, I am guilty of doing so as well. But, it this what our generation should aspire to do? Studies show that these letter grades contribute to the anxiety of a high schooler’s already stressful life. Without the pressure of worrying about our Skyward grades, students can learn to have different relationships with their teachers. The teacher-student relationship is not extremely strong at Ridgewood High School in my opinion, and this could make it more secure.

As students move toward the college application process, most colleges and universities are interested in what kind of activities and extracurriculars applicants are engaged in–but just as important are their grades and GPA. The majority of stress high school students face lies in the prospect of college. Yet, grades are not the sole determinant of acceptance to a school. There have been many accounts of students sending in written evaluations from teachers and getting accepted into numerous schools; perhaps these teacher narratives paint a more descriptive picture of the student that better allow colleges to assess his or her character. I understand it would be asking a lot of a teacher to write each student an evaluation, but it could help them to pinpoint areas a student may be struggling in and help work with students more individually to improve. Some students learn better either visually or through hands-on experience; with these written evaluations, teachers can help each student feel more comfortable in classroom environment.

It seems beneficial to the community of RHS and to our futures to switch to a no-letter grading system. Stress seems to be the only thing coming from Skyward, and that is only harmful to our health.  Our futures don’t stem from our Skyward accounts. I know I don’t want to be defined by numbers and letters. Do you?

Talia Rosen
Staff Writer
Image: Jacqueline Weibye

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