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Attempting to Please Everyone

By: seefah
Jul 12, 2009

The fact that the value of grades is decreasing is undebatable. Sure, cheating is an issue, but it’s one that we can attempt to resolve. On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to make learning and teaching styles uniform. Some people are auditory learners, while others are visual learners. Some people learn better when studying alone, while others need someone to thoroughly explain each concept. In general, a lot of students feel as though they cannot fully represent their understanding of material on a Scantron.

Alternative schools implement teaching methods that sometimes do not require grades or allow students to present their knowledge in a more comfortable way. Linda Shaw, an education reporter for the Seattle Times, wrote an informative article (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003645914_unschooled01m...) about Clearwater School in Bothell, Washington – an educational institution that doesn’t force students to do anything. The school allows their students to learn what they wish, when they’d like to, and it doesn’t give out assignments or grades. Marc Voyer, an entertainment correspondent for AskMen.com, made a top ten list of “weird alternative schools” (http://www.askmen.com/top_10/entertainment_300/307_top_10_list.html) around the world. The schools listed focus on outdoor and natural living education.

However, these schools are not always free and are not found everywhere. And how do colleges know who to accept when one student does not have grades to prove their intelligence? Grades are necessary to evaluate levels of intelligence, but there are already way too many problems with the lack of standardized testing as it is (some teachers give easier tests than other teachers, for example). Also, the aforementioned schools (at least the ones in the top ten list) do not offer just a regular education. Personally, I want to learn like I do now in a public school, but I want to be tested in a way that doesn’t just require the memorization of facts.

I do not know whether it is practical or even possible to implement my ideas. For instance, is one student getting a 100 on a chemistry lab comparable to another getting the same grade on a written exam? How can two different testing methods be equally challenging? Although written testing is seen as an objective grading approach, it is simply giving one type of student an advantage over another. However, changing the system would mean that, essentially, the student is picking his or her own grade. There are already problems present now, and there would be problems in any other educational system. Is accommodating students who learn differently a change worth making?

---Sahifah Ansari---

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