WVMS Voice

The Student News Site of Welsh Valley Middle School

WVMS Voice

WVMS Voice

Should Schools Continue Using Letter Grades


Have you ever received a grade that just didn’t sit right with you? Maybe it was 3 missed questions out of 28, which sounds great, but when you look at the grade it’s an A-. And that can come heavier than 3 missed questions. Why does one display of data seem worse than another? Which of the grading systems are actually better: percentages, OSU, no grades, or letter grades? If newer systems are better, why do we continue using the older methods, or are there changes coming. It seems like we’re not the only ones asking these questions since Welsh Valley recently took a survey on grading systems. All of these questions could be answered if we only knew which system was the best, so let’s find out.

To start, let’s look at percentages. 57.1% out of 7 people said that percentages were the most efficient way to grade. Most would agree with that because unlike letter grades, percentages are very straight forward. Percentages don’t stand for anything like a U meaning unsatisfactory, but instead it is just showing the information in form of a percent. That being said, percentages can be easily manipulated if there’s a lower number of questions. This is because percentages are always out of one hundred. So if there’s a quiz with only four questions, you’re dividing one hundred by four which is twenty five so a three out of four (75%) can change drastically to a one hundred percent with only one more question answered correctly. Some other down sides to percentages could be that different than letter grades and OSU (the grading used for specials) percentages are very logical and straightforward and as we mentioned before that can be a good thing but it can also be a disadvantage. Letter grades and OSU both categorize the grade you get on something and this too can be not the best, but it also gives motivation to earn higher grades. With the categorization there are some categories that are more superior but this can also be very subjective because it’s based on an individual’s opinion. And though percentages have some motivation towards higher percentages it’s still not the same as letter grades or OSU.

Next, we will begin at OSU. The OSU system is what I used as an acronym for the special system; outstanding, satisfactory, and unsatisfactory. There are many positive things to the OSU system. One reason being that it gives motivation to achieve higher grades, but also gives room to experiment and more at ease. At the same time it can work against students and do the exact opposite. This type of grading system is most formidable when there is a precise criteria. When there is a given criteria it often forms into a simple question of did it fulfill what was asked. When the criteria is less precise there leaves a lot of room for other judgments, deciding if something is satisfactory or not can be difficult. Again this can be a very subjective decision to make without any criteria because this changes from person to person solely on opinion. Despite this, OSU is a good compromise between a letter grade type system and a percentages type system.

To continue, let’s look at no grades at all. No grades at all can either be really good or really bad because many people love grades and many people hate them. But there are many positive things that come with not having grades. Such as having no grades gives students space to share their thoughts and feel more comfortable to experiment in classroom environments. Classes such as Challenge can be seen using this type of structure. Although this class does not implement grading such as percentages, letter grades, or OSU they still grade but in different ways. This has many connections to the growth mindset. Instead of using grades the class uses a lot of reflection based grading from peers, teachers, and from the students themselves. Peer reflections often take the form of glows and grows. This is when a peer comments a glow which is something that they thought was done well or they liked and then they write something that they could improve or fix next time which is a growth mindset. Though classes like this don’t have grades, they still maintain a solid structure. As far as goals go, instead of a goal based on someone else’s approval, students can learn to set goals for themselves while also working with the criteria for the assignment. Students can also learn to work with everyone’s various skills and personalities.

Lastly, we’ll look into letter grades. This is probably the most popular grading system. Letter grades are something that dominates the other systems in terms of preferences and popularity. This is also the most often used system in entertainment. It often creates conflicts and drama relating to falling grades, which usually casts a negative shadow onto letter grades. Letter grades are also a system that is never used in elementary but instead in higher levels of education such as middle school and high school that could be a reason younger students often look forward to receiving letter grades. Though letter grades aren’t directly put onto graded papers, the original grades are converted into letter grades in power school. Letter grades can give great goals and excitement, they can also have a more negative effect on students. Similar to what we talked about earlier, some grades have not only higher rankings but also higher status. It sounds odd saying a letter grade can have a higher status but if we were looking from a data point of view we would be able to see a relationship between the higher grades and higher status and as the grades descend so does it’s “status”. But as always, there are also grades that will have more negative connotations. These less positive grades can differ from person to person.

Surprisingly, grades have an impact on mental health; they can create stress and pressure in school and out of school. The point of the article is not to say bad grades can be blamed on the system being used because negative grades can have many sources, not studying, not paying attention, or sleep deprivation. Instead, it’s educating and helping us understand the effects of these different systems both negative and positive.

To conclude, the mission here was to figure out what the best grading system was. Yet even with all this there is still no simple answer. If you wanted a quick answer, the only answer there without looking at the psychological side would be there is not a best system to use, but instead there is something that each system is best at. Truth be told, though there is a logical statistical side to this question the answer probably wouldn’t be able to be answered without a little bit of personal opinion involved. Overall, we can tell percentages are best for precise straight forward presentations, OSU is a good system for a compromise with the different grades, no grades is best to give students space to experiment, and letter grades are best for motivation. All of the different systems target specific areas, and even though one presentation of a grade might be worse than another, there are still many reasons why people would have chosen that system for that particular class.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All WVMS Voice Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *