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Are GPAs good for kids and schools?

Members of The Review's Student Writers Advisory Group share their perspectives


HONGDo we place too much emphasis on grade point averages?

That’s the question members of The Review’s Student Writers Advisory Group sought to answer in the first of what will be a monthly feature. The teens attend Lake Oswego, Lakeridge, Riverdale, West Linn or Wilsonville high school, and their work appears in The Lake Oswego Review, West Linn Tidings and Wilsonville Spokesman.

Not a perfect system

By Christine Hong

Do GPAs matter? I believe that the answer for most students would be yes. I know that Lake Oswego and West Linn are very competitive, so it is more likely that students would want the best GPA.

The real question is, to what point do GPAs matter? Labeling students with numbers is degrading. Students’ obsession over getting a 4.0 GPA is equivalent to the media obsessing over the Kardashians. It’s simply unhealthy for students who spend most of their time studying to keep up their grades, or in today’s world, trying to get that impossible 5.2 GPA. It’s not the perfect system to quantify the work ethic or knowledge of students. Some students might have the IQ of Albert Einstein, but can suffer from anxiety disorders and fail their tests and classes, dropping their GPA far below from a 4.0.

If one of these students dreamed of attending his dream school — Harvard, for example — and applied there with a 2.0 GPA, comparing to a student who received a 4.0 and had the same SAT or ACT scores as the 2.0 GPA student, which applicant would Harvard be more likely to accept? Now, do you think GPAs matter?

Wait, there’s a different side. GPAs shouldn’t matter. It degrades the value of learning. Many of us believe that school and education is frivolous, but it is the greatest gift that a human is capable of — learning and teaching. We would be nothing if we couldn’t learn or teach. Why do students go to school? If they miss out on one AP class, whether it’s chemistry or calculus, they’re going to have a disadvantage of keeping that “A” slapped on their progress reports. Most students who are so conscious of their grades don’t go to school for the sake of learning.

Students “learn” to get A’s in order to get a 4.0 typed on their transcript, but for what? To go to a prestigious college for a better life in the future that’s not even promised? To what point do GPAs matter? Do GPAs even or should matter?

Christine Hong is a junior at Lake Oswego High School.

KAMERMAN

Cheating and faking to get the grade

By Kate Kamerman

GPAs: a measure of success or a number on a subjective scale? Adolescents have become consumed with their grade point average and what they believe rides on it. Their future — including the possibility of a career, family, happiness and a home — will all be affected if they do not get scored as above average in even one subject of their life.

This idea of pending failure is reinforced by students’ peers, teachers and parents as they attempt to make the grade in order to feel a sense of accomplishment by getting nothing below an A-.

GPAs evaluate one aspect of a student: their ability to play the school’s game — to take tests, grade-grub, beg for extra credit and essentially jump through hoops. It doesn’t show their capacity for care, willingness to be bold, attitude towards spontaneity, dedication or any hint of who they are as a human, not just a student.

Although GPAs can reflect what kind of student the individual is, they often do not show other characteristics that a student gleans from their education. They may be extremely intelligent and determined but do not perform well on tests, or do not have time to complete assignments because of external forces outside their control that affect their time management. These students being impacted and judged by one number prohibits them from trying once they feel that they have failed.

GPAs are also inconsistent when students select a class because of a teacher’s grading reputation.

“GPAs aren’t a good way of evaluating someone’s level of intelligence because grades are often inflated,” said Alice Chen, a senior at Lakeridge High School. “It just shows how well you can get by in high school.”

GPAs can also make students feel inadequate as they to resort to cheating and faking in order to get the grade they deem as successful. Using GPAs to gauge a student’s entire being is not an accurate representation and devalues education.

If an individual gets any grade that they believe is insufficient, even if it’s above average, they feel that they have failed and have no future because there is such an emphasis on this evaluation in our community. Pushing competition and cutthroat tactics, GPAs don’t encourage students to learn for the sake of knowledge.

Students must remember that just because they are not considered perfect by the GPA standard does not mean they are rendered a malfunctioning fallout of society. There are copious opportunities that allow students to flower as members of the world that really have no relation to a number on which they were once assessed.

Kate Kamerman is a senior at Lakeridge High School.

MURRAY

The desire to be flawless

By Mckenna Murray

As a high schooler, it is easy to become stressed because of the constant pressure surrounding your GPA and whether or not it meets expectations set by not only yourself, but also by society. Though grades cause substantial anxiety for students, I do not necessarily blame the entire problem on GPAs.

Without GPAs, there would be no way to quantify students’ achievements in their classes; therefore, I believe that the grading system is necessary. However, I do not believe that the pressure and emphasis placed on grades is required.

Our society in Lake Oswego focuses on success. Whether on the field or in the classroom, everyone strives to be the best and maintain a perfect record. This desire to be flawless as a student and receive the highest GPA stems from our society, since we are taught from a young age that making errors is a ghastly mistake.

Throughout the school day, it is impossible to avoid a conversation based on grades. Students have a strange fascination with their peers’ grades, and it leads to a point where the students compete in order to determine who owns the best GPA.

This competitive nature compels students to take the hardest classes and work for the loftiest grades in fear that they might not be equal to their peers. Besides competing during the school year, students also battle each other when applying to colleges.

It is obvious that colleges admire people who obtain high GPAs; however, I have also encountered many college admissions officers who emphasize the fact that a three-digit number does not define an entire human being.

Keeping this in mind, society, including parents, teachers and other students, should ease the pressure placed on grades. While GPAs are important when determining a student’s achievement in classes, they are not detrimental to a person’s lifelong happiness and should, therefore, be less of a focus.

Mckenna Murray is a junior at Lake Oswego High School.

MYSORE

GPA doesn’t define you

By Meghana Mysore

Just as someone else’s words cannot define you, a number — such as a grade point average — cannot define you, either. In high school, the GPA seems to control students. From the classes we take to the days and nights we spend studying, the three-numbered beast has a definite clutch on our lives.

Students, teachers and the general community we live in overhype grades. While grades can, to some extent, reflect your level of achievement in school, they most certainly do not reflect you as a person, as a learner and as a thinker. In fact, I would argue that the stress we put on GPAs devalues learning itself.

Most students in high school take honors and AP courses in the hopes of boosting their grade point averages (in schools in which weighted GPA exists). For many, the sole motivation in taking these classes is to earn the weighted credit.

This GPA-oriented achievement takes away from the true purpose of education: to learn. Many students view school as a vehicle for obtaining a certain GPA. The GPA overshadows the love of learning.

While GPAs affect students negatively by causing them to focus too much on the grades and too little on the experience of learning, they do provide a means of standardization. Schools and teachers need to have a method to judge students objectively, and a number, the most impersonal means of judging, serves this purpose.

In serving this purpose, though, the GPA brings about many negative corollaries, the most visible of which is competition. As a method of standardization to rank students against each other, it fosters immense competition.

GPAs and grades are subjects that students discuss freely. In the hallways, you will hear questions such as “What did you get on that paper?” and “What did you get on the math test?” repeatedly being asked. Grades are not items of secrecy in high school.

This openness undoubtedly creates competition, pitting students against each other in a battle of the intellectually fittest.

The GPA is an elusive subject with many negative components and some positive aspects, and making sense of it is as difficult as making sense of an abstract piece of art.

Perhaps the path to understanding the GPA is considering it in the context of a life; while the GPA may seem to be the only important thing in students’ lives now, it will not be later. Students need to ask themselves the question “Does the high school grade point average determine success in adult life?” The answer is clearly “no.”

Meghana Mysore is a junior at Lake Oswego High School.

BISHOP

GPAs rob students of the desire to learn

By Mikhaila Bishop

My teacher phrased it well when he said this week, “If you tried your best, but still received a C or a B or a failing grade, then you haven’t failed. You only fail if you choose to quit as a result.”

Of course, this was said the day after the biggest AP Calculus test of the semester so far. The test took two class periods. Not only did the majority of the class receive an “undesirable” grade, but at least three people left my class the first day with tears in their eyes, sure that they had done everything wrong.

Why do lessons that are supposed to better our minds and experiences have the opposite effect on our emotions? The answer is simple, but it’s not one the school system wants to hear: grade point averages.

A high school student’s life depends on a mark out of 4 points. If you misunderstand the instructions on one assignment, it brings your entire percentage down. If you miss one day and your science class performs a lab, you have to come in after or before school and sacrifice time you need to do homework for other classes or miss out on valuable time to sleep.

If a student somehow manages to get a perfect 4.0 for the semester, it is accomplished with numerous late nights, lack of socialization with their peers and a constant, unmonitored level of stress.

However, I’m not condemning AP classes. Being given the opportunity to have a challenge and to strive for better than the norm is healthy and furthers learning. Unfortunately, there are people who have taken more difficult classes just to further their GPA. In the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, an A grade in an AP class counts for 5.0 rather than the usual 4.0. This is an abuse of the chances offered to us by our district and our schools.

I say do away with GPAs! They are an unwarranted stress and a time drain, and they strip away the desire to learn. This semester, the classes I’ve learned the most in are the ones not required by the curriculum.

GPAs run students into the ground and take away their passion to learn. If we didn’t have to follow a strict set of guidelines, I strongly feel that students would show more responsibility and passion toward their learning and in their lives.

Mikhaila Bishop is a junior at Wilsonville High School.

To contact the student writers or propose a topic for them to cover, email education@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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