High Expectations or Added Stress?

Zoe Howell, Staff Writer

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Do you ever wish you could change the rules in our school handbook? Many students disagree with some of the rules and regulations in the handbook, and their arguments are usually reasonable. There are pros and cons to nearly every rule we have, and our handbook is changed every year. If a rule is seen as unfair or unnecessary, it is amended. One rule commonly discussed between students, parents, and even teachers are our school’s grading scale. Although it is not likely to be changed, it has been both praised and criticized for years. 

Carterville’s grading system is constantly under wrap for its high expectations. In most high schools, if you have a grade percentage between 70% and 79% in a class, your letter grade would be a C. In Carterville, however, we use a college-level grading system. The lowest C you can have in a class is 76%, a C-. The highest C is 83%, which would typically be a B in other schools. Now imagine moving from a school with a standard grading system to one with a college-level, like Carterville. A B/C average student could potentially become a C/D average student here and may feel discouraged, even if they are really receiving the same grades as before.

Our difficult grading system even puts added stress on students that have been attending for years. When asked her opinion on our grading scale, freshman Kerrygan Drew replied with, “I believe it is unfair to hold Carterville students to a higher standard than other schools. For students like me who despair over a B, it’s hard because if I went anywhere else I could have all A’s.” As a student with an A/B average, I definitely agree with this. Anywhere else I would have straight A’s, and at this school, I feel pressured to overachieve which causes me to become extremely anxious and stressed. Students agree that these high expectations only worsen our anxiety, and may cause some people to give up and not try at all.

Although our grading system can be seen as “unfair” and “too advanced,” there are also countless advantages. Most importantly, it prepares students for a college-level grading system. With that, the students would already be familiar with the grading expectations of most colleges, and would already know what to expect. Students who come from high schools with a standard grading system may be more overwhelmed than those who come from college-level schools. This type of grading system also motivates students to try harder in high school to achieve higher grades. Good grades are harder to achieve here, which motivates students to pay attention in class and study more, improving their grades.

Realistically, the grading system is unlikely to ever be changed, but if given the opportunity, many students would choose to change the grading scale before anything else in the school handbook. Our grading scale holds countless advantages, such as preparing students for college grading and motivating them to try hard. With those advantages also come numerous disadvantages, such as added stress and pressure on students. John Holt, the author of How Children Fail, criticizes the modern grading system by saying, “We destroy the disinterested (I do not mean uninterested) love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards — gold stars, papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards… in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else…. We kill, not only their curiosity, but their feeling that it is a good and admirable thing to be curious, so that by the age of ten most of them will not ask questions, and will show a good deal of scorn for the few who do.”