Many schools have switched from the traditional A-F scale of academic grading to more holistic approaches, such as pass/fail systems. While many people think this decision decreases stress on students and helps them focus on learning the material rather than getting a grade, the traditional system has many conveniences for students, teachers and parents. Some disadvantages of schools without grades include less specific standards and feedback, and difficulty obtaining professional and higher-education opportunities.
More Difficult Evaluation
The University of the West Indies at Mona states that grades give teachers an equitable scale for evaluating students' mastery of concepts. Pass/fail evaluations may tend to focus on how well a student performed as opposed to what he actually learned; an evaluation of "passing" doesn't necessarily indicate strong comprehension. According to Auburn University, traditional grades can be highly effective, provided that teachers identify what they want students to learn and how their activities, exams and assignments will accomplish those objectives.
Less Specific Feedback
Grades also provide valuable feedback for students and their parents about strengths, weaknesses and general performance. Pass/fail systems provide only two options for evaluation, while a letter grade system offers five levels of achievement to pinpoint a student's work ethic and comprehension. While Edutopia suggests project-based assessment, student self-assessment and greater communication between teachers and students as solutions to this drawback, grades let teachers and parents identify specific weaknesses so students can get help.
Level of Effort
Advocates of the no-grade system, such as High School Magazine, contend that not having grades gives students stronger motivation by letting them focus on what they're learning and not how they're performing. However, the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning states that without grades as a motivating force for achievement, many students may put forth decreased effort. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says that grades can reward students for high work ethic and achievement.
Professional and Graduate Opportunities
Not having academic grades may lower students' stress in the short-term, but pose long-term consequences for their professional and higher education goals. According to A to Z of Brain, Mind and Learning, many graduate schools, colleges and jobs look at grades as a standardized way to determine potential success. Many admissions personnel consider grades to be a more accurate determining factor than test scores. Because of heavy competition for jobs and slots in universities, students who attend high schools that don't offer grades may find themselves at a disadvantage.
- University of the West Indies at Mona: A Guide to the Grade Point Average System
- Auburn University: Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment
- Edutopia: Pass or Fail Instead of "Traditional" Grades
- High School Magazine: From Degrading to De-Grading
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Center for Teaching Excellence: Assigning Course Grades
- Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning: Assessing Student Performance: Formulating Effective Methods of Assessment
- A to Z of Brain, Mind and Learning: The Importance of Grades
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