School should show us our grades


Danielle Brennan, Editorials Editor

To see or not to see? That is the question for many students as word buzzes that the Upper School (US) will be switching to Canvas from PowerSchool with the latter shutting down for good. Why such a buzz around campus? Canvas has a window that shows up-to-date trimester grades as teachers make them visible, and Canvas even has a calculator where students can input potential scores of retake assessments to calculate the outcome on the overall trimester grade.

While the US changes platforms, the administration should consider its policies for grade check-ins across departments. The US blanket answer to students who want to know how they’re doing in class? Meet with your teacher any time, talk about why you feel like you need to, and ask for the grade then. But this isn’t the right answer to worried students; grade visibility will be a tool in reducing their stress, even if the school hasn’t adopted that train of thought thus far. The school should poll the students exclusively and anonymously to understand what they feel reduces their stress, then adjust grade policies accordingly and uniformly.

The first problem is not all teachers are comfortable telling a student their current grade; many don’t have a calculated and up-to-date grade since it’s not common practice for students to check them. On top of that, policies range from initially hiding test grades and only giving feedback to no retakes and PowerSchool-visible updated grades at any given moment. Some teachers intermittently update PowerSchool grades and add comments there; some go over tests in class; still others send detailed emails with feedback.

Another problem amplifies this inconsistency; grade anxiety and obsession is rooted in pressure to perform and bolster resumés. That means removing the grades from sight is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. The administration thinks covering students’ eyes is protecting them— but many students would rather see what’s wounded so they can properly treat the problem. In other words, many students would rather see how they’re doing to feel reassured or make calculated decisions about whether to change their approach in class.

Say you have a math test and you’re hovering just below a goal grade, but you don’t know if the score was high enough to bump you up that extra point. You go to your teacher, and they decline to show you your current grade, or explain how you did well, and reiterate the grade isn’t the point of the learning. Possibly, you leave the meeting frustrated and worried about how your transcript will look to colleges. Even if you’re only concerned with meeting the goal you set for yourself, now you’re unsure of where you stand.

Keeping grades hidden can be detrimental to a student’s sense of accomplishment, progress, or security.

Although the goal of many grade policies is to place the sense of accomplishment on something other than scores, the fact remains that grades matter.

Simultaneously, the inconsistency in grade visibility from one department to the next—even from one teacher to the next— convolutes students’ sense of grade security, making the mounting stress of managing performance and balancing workload harder than it would be if there was only one policy in practice.

As the campuses move to Canvas, the school should consider the effects of its grade window on students and gauge just how effective hiding grades is at mitigating stress.

It’s easy to think that uber-accessible grading portals encourage the toxic antics of helicopter parents or anxious students rather than encourage learning. However, overbearing parents will be that way regardless of if they have access to the grade. Here’s student feedback: if you want to reduce our grade anxiety, let us have the option of seeing them. Remove the extra anxiety: the unknown.