The Instigator
Brian314
Con (against)
Winning
8 Points
The Contender
rco28
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points

Grading systems in middle school should be abolished.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Brian314
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/25/2011 Category: Education
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 21,135 times Debate No: 15459
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (2)

 

Brian314

Con

I negate "Grading systems in middle school should be abolished."

Round 1 will be for acceptance and definitions, debate will begin in Round 2.

I define "grading systems" as "standardized measures of varying levels of comprehension within a subject area". "Middle school" is defined as "the levels of schooling in grades 6, 7, and 8". "Abolished" is defined as "formally put an end to."

I thank my opponent for accepting, and I look forward to a good debate.
rco28

Pro

I accept the debate, and also look forward to it. I affirm "Grading systems in middle school should be abolished."
Debate Round No. 1
Brian314

Con

Grading systems provide a standardized way of communicating and determining how much a student has learned or knows. Grades are based upon factors such as scores on tests or completion of homework, and therefore grades can be used as qualifications for entrance into particular classes or as an admission requirement for college. Colleges tend to use GPA as a factor in admission, and the greater the average GPA of admitted students at a college is, the lower the percent of applications that are accepted is[1]. Having a grading system in middle school prepares students for the grading systems in high school, which are an important part in college acceptance.

Grades motivate students. According to a paper written by the University of Southern California, extrinsic motivation, or motivation that comes from the external environment, is "quite helpful in furthering student learning." Extrinsic motivation comes "with the anticipation of rewards - grades... or some other incentive."[2]. Therefore, grades act as a motivation for students to work harder.

Grades give students feedback about their progress and achievement, because if a student knows their current grade, they have a factor that they can use to judge their improvement. The purpose of a report card or a progress report is to allow a student to see how much they've progressed, and how much more there is to accomplish and improve in. Grading gives students this opportunity.

Grades provide guidance for teachers for instructional planning. If teachers look at grades of their students and can see them struggling, the teacher can then make modifications to the way they teach in order to maximize student performance.

For these preceding reasons, grading systems in middle school are good and should not be abolished.

[1] http://www.petersons.com...
[2] http://cet.usc.edu...
rco28

Pro

My first contention is that kids are more focused on getting good grades then actually learning. If a teacher gives criteria for a certain assignment, many kids will simply do exactly what is required to get what they consider "good grades". By doing this, they aren't really learning anything, since there is no incentive for doing anything else "extra", also known as learning more then what's required. Many teachers will accept extra credit, but this really does not allow kids to learn anything else because they're interested, it is simply another way to increase that all-important grade. "The book suggests that by giving grades beginning in early education, we teach children that learning for knowledge is not necessary, and all that is needed are the skills to pass tests and play the game the teacher is playing." ~Ted Montgomery, after reading "This Book is Not Required."
My second contention is that grades cause bad self-esteem and unnecessary stress. When a kid sees a huge red F on a paper they put effort into, even if it was a last-minute effort, they feel disappointed and worried about how they're parents will react. This causes a lot of stress and a decline of self-esteem. Also, the kids that really, really care about doing well, and getting full credit on every assignment spend so much time and effort striving for this that they experience a LOT of unnecessary stress. By abolishing the standardized grading system, we are talking a lot of stress off of every kid, whether they are a procrastinator, or just spend way too much time doing schoolwork for that coveted grade. This middle school English teacher agrees "It makes them afraid to ask questions (because the system penalizes not-knowing), afraid to work things out by trial and error, and -- worst of all -- afraid to express unpopular opinions. None of this is what real learning is all about. Learning is messy. It involves taking risks and making mistakes. It requires you to admit your ignorance at times. But by the time most students reach college age, they have already decided that questions and experiments are dangerous, and the safest course is to memorize, repeat, and tuck everything into a neat plastic binder."
My third contention is that kids need more specialized feedback. By handing them back a paper with a big red letter on the top, we are saying "Here, you fall into this category." Teachers simply use grades as a time-saver in middle school. Without them, teachers would still need to give kids feedback, but it would be more in a written-evaluation form, which is better for kids in the long run, because it gives them a more specific evaluation, especially during middle school, where kids are beginning to really learn and develop and discover their strengths. Yes, standardized tests are useful in college and high school, because they can determine whether you get into certain classes, but at least for middle school, it would be better for the kids if the grading system was abolished. By having a teacher take the time to really think about each individual student, and write, say, a paragraph about them every once in a while, detailing what they're doing well, and what they need to improve upon, it will make a much bigger impact.

Now I'll refute my opponent's arguments:

1. My opponent's first argument was that grades provide preparation for the grading system in high school and college. "Having a standardized way of communicating how much a student learns or knows" is not as necessary in middle school as it is later on. Middle school should be a time for focusing on students' strengths and weaknesses, which come out much better through written evaluations.
2. My opponent's second argument is that grades equal motivation. However, it is not the grades themselves, but the idea of feedback that motivates students. This explains why some don't care about putting effort into their work, because they don't find letters motivational. The letters themselves provide no real feedback, just as a gauge for what category you fall into. Getting a personal paragraph that's very positive is much more of an incentive then a letter "A" written at the top of your paper.
3. My opponent's third argument is that grades can be used to give students feedback about their progress. While this is true, they are not the best form of feedback, especially for middle schoolers. A written evaluation will accomplish the exact same thing, in a more inspiring way.
4. My opponent's final argument was that grades provide teachers with guidance for instructional planning. However, you don't need an official grading system to accomplish this. All a teacher has to do to see how her class is doing is read over some of their work. Then they can see more in depth what the students are and aren't getting, instead of just glancing at overall grades, to completely maximize students' education.

For all these reasons, the grading system should be abolished.
Debate Round No. 2
Brian314

Con

I thank my opponent for her responses.

My opponent begins by saying that kids in middle school are more focused on getting good grades than actually learning. Her reasoning is that with grades, kids will do exactly what is required to get good grades, and there is no incentive for doing extra. I would like to point out that with or without the presence of a grade, whether or not students do extra will not change. A motivated student will want to learn more regardless of whether or not they will receive a grade for it. A non-motivated student will not want to learn more, even without a grading system. In addition, without a grading system, a non-motivated student may not even see the need to do what is required, as there is no directly correlation between how they perform on any given assignment and their grade. There is no easy way to measure learning. Grades offer students a simple way of looking at how much they understand of what is being taught. Students focus on grades, and the grades are used as a factor to help the student learn, not as a way to distract them from learning.

Moving on to my opponent's second contention, she states that grades cause bad self-esteem. She gives an example of a student who gets an F, which causes them stress. I would like to look at the long term effects of this example. The student who failed an assignment would be stressed at first, yes, but the grade is an easy way for them to know that they do not understand what is being taught. They can then go to a teacher or parent for help, and better understand what is being taught. In the long term, the grading system helps the student learn to do better and helps them deal with stress.

My opponent's third contention is that kids need specialized feedback and teachers should give a written evaluation, which gives students a more specific evaluation of what they need to improve on. However, I see no reason not to implement specialized feedback, written evaluations, or even parent-teacher conferencing in addition to the current grading system model. It is not necessary to get rid of grades altogether in order to give students specialized feedback. Just because students need specialized feedback does not mean that we should have to replace the grading system with written evaluations. Teachers can give specific evaluations and grades at the same time, and there is no reason to have to choose one or the other.

I would now like to defend my own case.

In response to my first contention, my opponent states that standardized ways of communicating how much a student knows is not as necessary in middle school as later on, and that middle school should be a time for focusing on students' strengths and weaknesses. Once again, she brings up the idea of the written evaluation, which I say can be used in addition to the grading system, instead of replacing it. She mentions that the grading system is not as necessary for middle schoolers as it is for when they are older. However, I would like to point out that the purpose of "middle" school is to be the transition period between elementary and high school, and adjusting to the high school grading system is an important part of middle school. Yes, students need to focus on strengths and weaknesses, but having a standardized way of communicating how much a student knows is just as important in middle school as it is in high school.

My opponent stated that it is the idea of feedback that motivates students, and not the grades themselves. She says that written evaluations are more inspiring. My opponent, once again, is under the belief that if teachers were to use written evaluations, which some of them do in certain circumstances, we would have to eliminate grades and abolish the grading system in order to use them. This is flawed logic. Teachers are fully capable of giving written evaluations for certain assignments if they feel it necessary, but there is no reason for teachers to only give a written evaluation without a grade attached to it. Giving written evaluations does not mean that the grading system should be abolished.

Next, my opponent states that grades are not the best form of feedback, and that a written evaluation accomplishes the "exact same thing" as a grade, in a more inspiring way. Written evaluations and grades do not accomplish the exact same thing. Written evaluations give students constructive criticism on what needs to be improved, and acknowledgement for what they did well. Grades, on the other hand, provide students with a direct way of comparing their grades with where a student wants to be, and how much more a student needs to accomplish in order to get there. A teacher can easily tell the class "The class average for this assignment was a B+", and students are then able to check their assignment to see whether or not they are working up to the standards expected by the teacher. That cannot be accomplished with written evaluations, and therefore, grades are just as important, if not more important.

Finally, in response to my fourth contention, my opponent states that a teacher can guide their instructional planning by seeing in depth what students are and aren't understanding by looking over their actual work. With hundreds of students, it can often be difficult for teachers to determine how many people are actually understanding what is being taught. With a grading system in place, teachers would better be able to see exactly what students understand, don't understand, how much they know, and how their progress has changed over a period of time.

And for these reasons, the grading system should not be abolished.
rco28

Pro

Before I begin, I would like to provide a brief roadmap of what I'll be talking about. First, I'll be defending my own case, then move on to refute my opponent's arguments.

In response to my contention about kids being more focused on getting grades, my opponent claims that whether we have grades or not, the extra amount of extra learning won't change, and that grades have other benefits, which we should be focusing on, like the fact that they are a "simple way of looking at how much they understand what's being taught". I admit that the kids that are slackers and the kids that are overachievers will continue being slackers and overachievers, and the presence or absence of a grade isn't necessarily going to change that. However, the point is that, grades are a barrier for the kids are indifferent about learning. Because there's a simple wall up saying "This is exactly what you can do to get the best grade.", and there's no incentive for doing more, the kids that are indifferent don't. However, if there wasn't a specific grading system, kids wouldn't have that barrier. The incentive for doing more would simply be the fun of not knowing how well you can do. This in itself would not only help kids learn, but make it more fun.

To my second contention, my opponent stated that because of the long term effects of grades, they are better. He also said that the grade will help them learn what they don't know, and be less stressed. But let's face it, if a kid gets an F on a paper, how likely is it that they're going to want to tell their parents, let alone ask for help? The odds aren't high. Some students might even be too embarrassed to take an extra few minutes to go talk to their teacher. This is even more stressful, and by eliminating grades, we are eliminating this stress. Middle school age kids don't need a standardized way of looking at their achievements, or lack thereof. If a student is truly struggling, a teacher will recognize it, and most likely talk to them personally. Therefor, the same result is accomplished in a less stressful way.

To my third contention, my opponent said that we can have written evaluations, and grades at the same time, and there's no reason to pick one over the other. My point is that, for middle-schoolers, which this debate is focused on, written evaluations are better, because they offer the specialized feedback without the stress of an overall mark. We need to get rid of grades and start just giving out something like a written evaluation, because it will be better stress-wise, and will give kids a more accurate description of their strengths and weaknesses, something middle-school kids need to focus on.

I would now like to respond to my opponent's arguments.

For his first contention, he claims that we could have the written evaluation and the grading system, and that the "point of middle school" is to be a transition period, where adjusting to what's to come is important. I would like to point out that adjusting to high school-type grading system isn't hard, and that once again, it is more important to focus on kids' individual strengths and weaknesses, instead of just handing out generic grades. While it's true we could have both written evaluations and grades, that would be kind of pointless, especially in middle school. Also, going off what my opponent said about middle school being a transitional period, I would like to point out that my focusing purely on their strengths and weaknesses during this time, they are making the transition from elementary school (where it doesn't matter as much) to high school (where they really matter).

For his second contention, he claims that my logic is flawed when it comes to my examples about written evaluation and feedback. I would like to point out that all my examples about written evaluations are just that: examples. I'm not saying that this is exactly what would happen, I was just pointing it out as a suggestion. My point was simply that they would be a good way of getting motivational feedback to the students at a reasonable rate.

Thirdly, he claims that written evaluations and grades do not accomplish the exact same thing. I agree, that's not what I meant when I made that statement. My point was that everything that grades can do, written evaluations can also do. Students can compare notes on what the teacher said if they want an average, and teachers will often write what they expect from the students in this written evaluation. Therefor, students will know exactly how they're doing, what they need to be doing, and what they're doing well, in addition to providing a more in-depth way of showing a student where they are and what they need to do to get to where they want to be. Written evaluations can accomplish the same things as grades, as well as providing more explanations, so they are a better form of feedback, especially for middle-schoolers.

Finally, for his fourth contention he claims that since teachers have so many students, it's difficult for them to determine how many people understand. However, teachers still grade all of those papers, so yes, there may be a lot of them, but the sheer amount is not going to stop a teacher from paying attention to the quality of the work. Because of that, teachers don't need a grading system to "see exactly what students understand, don't understand, how much they know, and how their progress has changed over a period of time", all the things my opponent said a grading system was necessary for.

And for these reasons, the grading system should be abolished.
Debate Round No. 3
Brian314

Con

I am going to begin by looking at my opponent's case, then move on to my own, and conclude with voting issues.

My opponent first concedes to my point that slackers will continue to be slackers and overachievers will continue being overachievers whether or not there is a grading system in place. She then moves on the address the middle ground, those that are indifferent towards learning. According to my opponent, the grading system poses as a barrier for those indifferent towards learning, so that they only do what is necessary and "there is no incentive for doing more". However, without the presence of a grading system, there is no incentive at all. In a school with a grading system, the grade acts as the incentive for students to do the best that they can in order to ensure the best grade that they can achieve. In a school without a grading system, there is no incentive for doing the best that a student can do for those that are indifferent to learning, since they are not motivated to learn. My opponent brings up the incentive regarding "the fun of not knowing how well you can do" that she claims is only present in the absence of the grading system for those that are indifferent about learning. Students that are indifferent about learning neither care about learning nor intentionally try to avoid learning. Students who do not care about learning, which includes the category of "indifferent students", will not see "the fun of not knowing how well you can do" as an incentive, since they do not actively care about "knowing". Therefore, with a grading system in place, students are more motivated to learn than without a grading system, and students will learn more.

Moving on to my opponent's second contention, my opponent states that students who fail an assignment are likely to be embarrassed, and they will not want to tell their parents or ask for help. She says that by eliminating grades, we are eliminating stress. Though this may appear to be true at first, in actuality, if we eliminate grades, we are making life much more stressful for these students in their future. If a student gets an F on an assignment, they will feel stressed, yes. And they will most likely not like this stress. Therefore, on their next assignment, regardless of whether or not they asked for help or not, they will not want to fail another assignment, and this will encourage students to work harder and try to be better. Students don't want to fail, and if failing is a possibility, students will be motivated to try not to fail. Once again, this has shown that grades act as a strong motivator for students to work harder and try their best.

Regarding my opponent's third contention, my opponent claims that written evaluations should be done without the use of a grading system. I believe that there is no reason to eliminate the grading system altogether, regardless of whether or not written evaluations are in place. My opponent says that an overall grade increases stress. Realize, however, that not all stress is bad. In fact, stress is often times good. According to psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Tan of Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, "Stress is a burst of energy. It's our body telling us what we need to do."[1] As I have stated in response to her second contention, eliminating stress altogether just makes everything more stressful in the future, because without grades to give you a standardized indicator of a student's progress, a student will be even farther behind when they arrive in a high school with a grading system. By establishing grades early on, in middle school, students are given small amounts of stress to prepare them for the stress of high school, and even decrease that stress. Therefore, middle school grades actually decrease stress rather than increase it.

I would now like to move on to my own case.

In response to my first contention, my opponent says that it would be "kind of pointless" to have both a written evaluation system and a grading system at the same time. Middle school, she says, is supposed to be a time of focusing on students' strengths and weaknesses, and generic grades do not do this. However, grades can serve as a way of determining strengths and weaknesses. If a student were to get an B- on an essay about the laws of physics, and a A on an assignment on a creative art project, it should be clear to the student that they are better at creative art than writing about the laws of physics. By comparing one's own grades, a student can learn their strengths and weaknesses. A written evaluation may be a useful addition, but whether or not a written evaluation is used is not the purpose of this debate. Therefore, since grades provide a standard way of communicating how much a student knows, it is useful for students, parents, and teachers.

Next, my opponent brings up the point that there are many examples of good ways to motivate students, and that written evaluations are just one of these ways. She does not, however, bring up any points that counter the contention itself, the fact that grades do, in fact, motivate students. Since grades motivate students, there is no reason why we should abolish them in order to use other means of motivations.

My opponent then states that written evaluations are a better form of feedback than grades, because this gives students a way to know how they're doing, what they need to be doing, and what they're doing well. However, she does not give any reason for why written evaluations should be used as a replacement for the grading system. My opponent is providing alternatives that could be used in addition to the grading system for greater effect, instead of as a replacement.

Finally, in response to my final contention, my opponent says that teachers don't need to use a grading system in order to see what students understand. However, with so many papers to grade, it can often be useful for teachers to see exact numbers that show which areas students are struggling in, and what needs to be focused on more. If 75% of students understand one topic, and 80% understand another topic- it would be helpful for the teacher to begin by explaining the concept that only 75% students understand. Without looking at exact numbers and percentages, it might be difficult for the teacher to know what needs more improvement.

Finally, I conclude with voting issues.

My opponent has suggested alternatives to the grading system, such as written evaluations, that do not specifically give reason for the grading system to be abolished. I strongly urge you to vote Neg in this round because I have established a case that explains why the grading system is useful for students, and have refuted all reasons as to why the grading system is not good for students.

For these reasons, the grading system should not be abolished.

[1] http://www.msnbc.msn.com...
rco28

Pro

I apologize, I am out of town and will be unable to respond to the last round. My opponent and I have agreed (check the comments), that you should judge this debate on only the rounds that have been completed. Once again, I'm sorry, and please vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Logic_on_rails 3 years ago
Logic_on_rails
Quite a reasonable debate. Resolution wise, con wins (in here because I can't vote) because pro didn't so specifically address the abolition of grades. Con said both should be kept and pro had no reply. Also, con won arguments because he made the right arguments on the right topic, so to speak.

Incidentally, I think a mixture of the 2 is by far the best. In addition to knowing how well you do and such (grades) , you can get specific, detailed feedback upon where you went right and wrong (written) . Also, on the stress point, if a student gets an F it should indicate a number of things. He needs to work a lot harder the next time, he doesn't understand things his attitude is wrong etc. In fact, only a few days ago I got what I consider a substantially sub-par result in maths. Am I stressed over the mark? Yes. Will I probably put study time into the next one (usually never study) and want to do better like usual? Undoubtedly.
Posted by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
rco28, You should always put an extra space after each paragraph. It akes the text much easier to read.
Posted by Brian314 3 years ago
Brian314
My opponent has informed me that she is out of town and will be unable to finish the last round of this debate. I ask that you please not deduct points from her for this, and only judge this debate based on the rounds that were completed.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
Brian314rco28Tied
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: A good back-and-forth debate, but sources are needed to back up the arguments. Con was weakly sourced, but Pro had none at all. Con would still have had the edge without sources. I was not convinced that feedback motivates as well as grades.
Vote Placed by bluesteal27 3 years ago
bluesteal27
Brian314rco28Tied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: