The education downward spiral

Standards-based grading will do more harm than good for the upcoming Freshman.

Cameron Petit, Editor in Chief

Although I am a part of this very modern society, I find myself envying those that lived far before my years for reasons that would make a list longer than anyone could ever imagine. One thing I particularly wish was still the same is the education that my parents received when they were high school students. As the education system is constantly morphing, with changes like standards–based grading on the rise, I see a gradual decline in both accountability and opportunity to excel. Now, I was in no way a part of the evolution from traditional grading to standards–based (which I find a little ironic since it is my education, but that’s a different topic for a different day), but from the view of a student who genuinely cares about his education, I can not see how the move to this new grading system is going to bring positive change. This is because there is a growing gap between how education and the “real world” is addressed. For example, one of the characteristics of standards–based grading is that summative assessments, or assessments that will test if you have met the standards, can be retaken over and over again until the specific standard being tested is met. This is no way reflects what life will be like once graduation comes. You will not be given ten chances at a job interview; you will not have five chances to pay the bills on time; you will not have a second chance to get into the college of your choice. What I believe this new approach to education will do is give students a false perception of the world, thus failing to prepare them for life after twelve or more years of school.

Further, I think that this new grading system can also be categorized as the “dumbing down” of America. To me, standards-based screams “it’s okay to be mediocre! Don’t try any harder than you have to! Just meet the standards!” We shouldn’t ask anyone to strive for mediocrity, and this is what standards-based grading does, where getting average grades now correlates to an excellent student. I do not see the problem in praising those who exceed in school, nor do I see the problem in students failing a class that they did not understand enough to pass. Old educational methods let students be motivated by grades (I again do not see the problem in this whatsoever because if the student is striving for an A they will learn everything they need to in the process, therefore not missing out on anything. Again, this topic is for another day.), but now we are trying to force students to be motivated by the opportunity to gain knowledge, something that not everyone will take seriously. In my experience as a high school student, I know that many students would do absolutely anything to pass a class or get the grade they hoped for, but very few will go to the same lengths to gain knowledge. This is where the biggest problem lies: Many students are not going to buy into this new education because they will miss the old ways (this will be especially a problem for Biddeford students) and they will not be motivated by the sheer fact of meeting a standard. We need more than that; we need grades to tell us how we’re doing and a cumulative GPA to strive for. With this new system, we don’t have any of that, and I’m upset to say that my view of the future of America is not nearly as bright as my parents’ and grandparents’ views on it when they were my age.