Participation vs. Test Scores

Emily Andersen, Copy Editor

All students are not created equal. We have different strengths, weaknesses,
learning styles, motivations, and ideas. Yet we are all graded on the same scale. We all
must have brilliant discussions, eloquent essays, perfect notes, and ingenious testing
skills to reach that elusive A: the letter that determines the rest of our lives.
Imagine for a moment a student that has a 4.0, a 36 on the ACT, and absolutely
no communication skills. Tell him to write an essay and he will devote his entire life to
it for weeks until it’s so perfectly formed that it’s persuasive enough to turn Obama into
a Republican. Ask this same student to lead a discussion in class, and he’ll barely
manage to form a sentence. If he happens to have a teacher who bases even half of the
grade on participation, he just lost his 4.0.
Jennifer Seybert, a teacher, mother, and writer on mrt.com says, “We,
collectively, have spent an enormous amount of time averaging homework grades with
quiz grades, plus tests grades and participation grades, with each category needing to be
the exact algorithm that must be used for all.…Think about it, should every student’s
quiz grades really be 40 percent of a final grade or should homework really count for 20
percent? We have truly gotten lost in the calculations and now have no idea what
knowledge our children truly have.” Just because a student doesn’t speak out a lot, or
because they don’t easily understand a specific subject doesn’t mean they don’t have
useful skills that can help them in a future career. So, why are grades used to determine
who deserves to go to college and who doesn’t?
I don’t believe that this problem is the fault of the teachers. This is a problem
created by society, and the education system in general. Our current system of
education was set up in the 1840s, according to chesapeake.edu. Back then memorizing
facts and writing essays by hand was necessary for learning, but it isn’t anymore. There
is almost nothing I have learned during my time in high school that I couldn’t have
found on Google. We aren’t learning anymore. We’re just becoming masters of the
game. The game of memorizing equations and definitions just long enough to pass a
test. The game of putting on a façade of perfection for colleges to see. We have more
life hacks than life skills and we spend so much time developing them we forget to do
anything worth doing.
A problem of this size can’t be fixed immediately, but there are things we can
do. First of all, we can all stop basing our opinions of people on their GPA. We can
recognize that everyone is an individual, and our cookie cutter system cannot assign a
number to accurately represent a person’s intelligence. Then maybe we can stop
celebrating grades and start celebrating people.