Written by Collin Jaeger
A frustrating predicament for many this past winter break: the final grades for first semester were hidden throughout the two weeks off from school and came back into display on Jan. 12, the first Friday of second semester. Principal Kathleen Laurence left a short message on Infinite Campus regarding the decision to hide grades before first semester ended, stating that the grade book would be closed for teachers as well and would not be updated until the first week back from break. Not being able to track progress right away and prepare for the new semester was irritating for students and parents alike, and was counteractive to the aim of reducing student stress. Thus, the idea of hiding grades over break needs to be reconsidered.
Being informed on how well a student is currently doing in school definitely impacts how they prepare for the next semester. Second semester preparation can include essential decisions like switching lanes in a subject, dropping classes, signing up for tutoring, studying ahead and changing study habits. But when grades are hidden during this period, it is like being trapped in a place where desired productiveness and proactivity in arranging for second semester are completely unattainable. A student may have no idea that a certain class was too challenging for them by the end of first semester, and they will have to wait a week into the following semester to find out. At that point, switching lanes or dropping a class will be a gratuitous burden.
Making students wait until they have already sunk their teeth into second semester to know how their last semester went is hard to reason. Despite what some might argue about grades causing stress, waiting this long to see grades is bound to create more stress for multitudes of students. Although teachers are not guaranteed to complete all grades at the beginning of break, not being able to see any of them is not an easy feeling for many students. It is especially troubling when their parents are also concerned with their grades and may ask them over and over again whether they have gotten their grades back or why they have not gotten their grades back. Combining the pressure from parents with general confusion and frustration over grades does not make for the most stress-free winter break. And when break is over and a student finds that they do not agree with one of their grades, there is no time to process it or have a thorough conversation with their teacher. That is also sure to induce further stress.
Letting students make the most of their free time, or, according to Laurence, “play time, down time and family time,” instead of worrying about grades is an understandable motive. However, it is not enough to satisfy when a student’s own academic progress is out of their sight. For seniors especially, the end of first semester is a crucial moment to be observing grades, as first semester is typically the last time to prove their academic ability to the colleges they are applying for. That this situation was seemingly ignored by the administration is quite surprising.
The idea that thinking about grades over break takes away from the value of break is genuine, yet it has some unrealistic facets to it. Students really only need to look at their grades once to remember them, and they will do so at the very beginning of a break. After that simple check-in with their progress, whether grades are hidden from them or not does not really matter anymore, since they will not be checking in again.
As a supposed solution to post-first-semester stress, the decision to hide grades from students is ultimately a miscalculated one. If the administration really cares about student well-being, the more effective approach would be to teach students how to deal with their grades emotionally, not letting undesired grades give them so much stress and ultimately shifting the mindset around grades. This would be a far greater tactic, as it addresses the root of the problem directly. With this, grades ought to be kept open throughout the whole school year. That way, students will always be informed about their progress in school and can make any adjustments as needed. If students learn to avoid stressing about grades and can check them whenever they want, this will be the best way to eliminate school stress all around.