Charlie Brennan, Daniel Cho, Neel Vallurupalli, , and


Comparing grades seems like a normal action for students, especially after a test. We evaluate ourselves on our comparisons to others. Seeing your friend get that A while you are stuck with a B+–we’ve all been there. But what’s even worse, because of this competitive atmosphere, we are actually hampering higher level learning for students.

In a school where competition is welcomed and grades have an overwhelming amount of importance, we can only expect comparison between grades.

And in a school where everyone strives to succeed, where every student wants to go college after high school. And what’s essential to get an acceptance letter from that particular college? Grades. Grades have turned into something that defines who you are. Good grades might indicate that you’re a hard worker and intelligent, while bad grades place stereotypes on kids that they’re not smart and that they won’t do well after school.

What benefits are there to competing?

It’s this whole idea of survival of the fittest. The major benefits seems to be this sense of motivation. When we want that high grade, students will try to learn every detail about the subject and absorb as much information as possible. However, at this rate, this isn’t necessarily “true learning.”

When we look at how colleges take acceptances, they look at your GPA along with other factors including extracurriculars. Really, there’s no true way that colleges can see someone’s knowledge which is why the students that don’t necessarily get the best grades are at a disadvantage.

Nonetheless, when we compete, it drives students to succeed. So while grades may not be in use as initially intended, it does provide some positive benefits.

When we look at the effect it has on students, there are three main effects, according to Alfie Kohn, a leading researcher on progressive education. It reduces student’s interest in self-education, reduces preference for challenging tasks and lastly reduces the quality of the student’s thinking.

Clayton parent Creig Anzellotti’s perspective falls in line with Kohn’s research.

“Once you [students] stop focusing on getting the grades and start focusing on the learning, good grades will follow,” Anzellotti said.

Grades are not the reason why students try in or even attend school. The reason for school is to enlighten and educate future members of society. Grades are a way of expressing one’s progress, not the goal.

Learning information only to achieve good grades is like playing basketball only for the money. It’s just stupid.

Students should not be absorbed as much as they are by grades. Our society has placed an over-emphasis on grades, where instead they should have put their emphasis on learning.

The focus on getting good grades has cause many students to choose the “easy A” assignment rather than to take on a harder assignment. This discourages a growth mindset, an educational philosophy championed by leading psychologist Carol Dweck .

Instead of trying to improve their skills, students try to demonstrate that they know the skill they have already mastered. Just as in any group, students’ learning drive conforms to the average. The slow ones speed up slightly, and the faster ones slow down slightly. However, if the speediest in the class are not being challenged the whole attitude in the classroom is changed.

The drive and constant challenging of themselves raises the entire mood of the classroom, and by focusing only on grades society, is dampening the overall learning.