How much do grades matter if we are counting on one end of year school test to determine promotion? And how is the integration of Common Core Standards going to affect the way our children are assessed?
If you are asking these questions, so are millions of other parents across the nation as they send their kids back to school to face the challenges of the common core curriculum standards being integrated this year in their school. The level of integration of common core and the interpretation vary widely from school system to school system and in fact, vary from teacher to teacher.
Right or wrong, common core is being talked about and seems to be here to stay for at least a decade. A plan for replacing “No Child Left Behind” policies in our school systems has been in place for the last five years, but the truth is it takes that long for our national education system to conduct the research and strategically implement a new system. Then there’s the budget. How are schools going to pay for this very expensive Common Core Standards testing being challenged by many states? Although Georgia representatives have recently decided to create their own tests, they have still adopted the common core standards along with 44 other states. One thing is for sure. The Common Core Standards standards are changing the way teachers teach, children learn, and hopefully the face of education in this country for the better.
According to the National PTA, “American students are graduating unprepared for college and careers.” Less than a quarter of high school graduates can pass their classes in the first year of college. The National PTA adds, “Past standards have been so long and confusing that they do not function as clear guides for instruction.” To address these issues, states are transitioning to a standardized “Common Core Curriculum” across the nation.
So how much do grades really matter with so much emphasis placed on an end of school year assessment of our students’ short term memory recall of the information they learned in that short calendar school year? With the emphasis squarely placed on the application of knowledge, the Common Core Standards and method of assessments hope to change all that. Children are going to have to get used to more cumulative testing and more often. Our students’ proficiency of the Common Core standards are meant to be assessed throughout the school year in benchmark periods of testing, rather than one end of school year test. The truth is our kids have relied on memorization for too long and need to build critical thinking skills to apply the knowledge they are learning to more advanced concepts in future academic years. In theory, absolutely!
But let’s look at the reality. In addition to Common Core Standards benchmarking, grades are also a reflection of our students’ academic knowledge. And grades are based on several factors unrelated to really understanding the math and reading concepts. Most often grades are subjective and based on our teachers’ subjective interpretation of demonstrated study habits, and homework proficiency. A much as we don’t want to admit it, even “likability” plays a role in grades. Let’s face it. If a child turns in all of their homework, is courteous, even charming to his teacher, studies for hours each night to maintain a solid “A/B” average in the classroom, those demonstrated proficiencies do not completely reflect their comprehension of class material needed for long term recall and application. Many believe that one reason why SAT score shave fallen, by some estimations, as high as 15% over the last 10 years.
A true understanding of math and reading material cannot be memorized, repeated, or practiced into comprehension and application. Conversely, some students can learn a great deal in high school without earning the grades to match, because things like attendance and tardiness can affect grades. Children learn to compensate for their shortcomings in many ways. The reality is some kids know how to “work” the system and some do not. Neither scenario truly determine nor accurately predict proficiency on the SAT, getting into a great college, and ultimately a successful career.
High school grades matter most if you have hopes of going to college. But our children may have a high GPA and bomb the SAT, where having developed application and critical thinking skills are so important. Most colleges have minimum SAT/ACT score requirements for math and reading that need to accompany a GPA on a college resume. The grade point average is only one factor that colleges consider when they decide to accept or deny a student. But getting accepted is one thing; receiving a scholarship is another matter. Colleges also look at grades, community/club involvement, and SAT/ACT scores when they decide whether to award funding to high school students for a scholarship.
Grades can also be a factor for consideration into an honor society in college. Students find that involvement in an honor society or other club also makes you eligible for special funding and opens the door for incredible opportunities. You can travel abroad, become a campus leader, and get to know faculty when you are part of a scholarly organization.
It’s also important to know that colleges may not look at every grade you earn when making a decision. Many colleges only look at core academic grades when factoring the grade point average they use to make a decision about acceptance. Grades also matter when it comes to getting into a specific degree program in college. You may meet requirements for the university you prefer, but you could be denied by the department where your prefer major is housed.
Don’t expect to bring up your overall grade point average by taking elective courses. They may not be factored into the calculation the college uses. Do college grades matter? The importance of grades is more complicated for college students. Grades can matter for many very different reasons. Do freshmen grades matter? Freshmen year grades matter most of all for students who are receiving financial aid. Each college that serves students receiving federal aid is required to establish a policy about academic progress.
All students who receive federal aid are checked for progress sometime during the first year. Students must be completing the classes in which they enroll to maintain federal aid; that means students must not fail and they must not withdraw from too many courses during their first and second semesters.
Students who are not progressing at a determined pace will be placed on financial aid suspension. This is why freshmen can’t afford to fail classes during their first semester: failing courses during the first semester can cause you to lose financial aid during the first year of college!
Do all grades matter in college? Your overall grade point average is important for many reasons, but there are times when grades in certain courses are not as important as other courses. For example, a student who is majoring in math is probably going to have to pass first-year math courses with a B or better to move on to the next level of math. On the other hand, a student who is majoring in sociology may be OK with a grade of C in first-year math. This policy will differ from one college to another, so be sure to check your college catalog if you have questions. Your overall grade point average will be important for staying in college, too. Unlike high schools, colleges can ask you to leave if you aren’t performing well! Every college will have a policy about academic standing. If you fall below a certain grade average you may be placed on academic probation or academic suspension.
If you are placed on academic probation, you will be given a certain length of time to improve your gradesand if you do, you will be taken off probation. If you are placed on academic suspension, you may have to “sit out” for a semester or a year before you can return to college. Upon your return, you will likely go through a probation period. You will need to improve your grades during the probation to stay in college.
Grades are also important for students who want to continue with their education beyond the initial four-year college degree. To do this, some students may choose to pursue a master’s degree or a Ph.D. at a graduate school. If you plan to go on to graduate school after you earn a bachelor’s degree, you will have to apply, just like you had to apply to college out of high school. Graduate schools use grades and test scores as factors for acceptance.
Written by Kimberly Smith, CEO and Co-Founder of Omega Learning Center Franchisor
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