OPINION: WSU should change grading systems

Change the way we evaluate students, modify or get rid of GPA


GPA is not the best way to see if students really understand the material. Rethinking grading is an important change at WSU.

Here at WSU, we use GPA to evaluate our academic success. As a student, it can be easy to obsess over your GPA.

A high GPA comes with a feeling of achievement and can bring new opportunities. However, a low GPA can come with feelings of guilt, disappointment and can have a significant effect on your next semester. Learning becomes less about the subject and more about the grade. Students will avoid classes that have professors who are notorious for strict grading in fear of it affecting their GPA.

GPA does not define a student’s intelligence and is only contributing to grade inflation.

It is clear that the system is flawed and is not an accurate way to judge a student’s achievements.

“There are some teachers that ask you for things that were never taught in class, and we are expected to know them, that isn’t fair when it affects my grade,” Emily Peterson, WSU sophomore psychology major, said. “GPA can’t reflect on a whole semester’s work.”

When looking at a student’s GPA, there are a lot of things that are not seen. It is all artificial. Someone who is naturally good at understanding chemistry may never study for the class or do the reading but can still ace the test. While maybe another student has done hours of studying and does all the reading but gets a subpar grade. How is it fair to compare these students?

We do not accurately understand the learning process a student goes through.

“GPA has a huge impact on students emotionally and stemming from that can have an impact for the rest of the year,” Faith Gudgel, WSU freshman genetics and cell biology major, said. “Maybe if there was a way to factor growth and not just raw scores, that would be the best alternative.”

One college that does things a little different is, Evergreen State College. Evergreen, a liberal arts college, does not use letter grades or GPAs.

Students attending Evergreen are evaluated on their understanding of certain concepts as well as evident growth on the subject, giving students fail or pass on the class based on their learning progress and understanding the subject provided by the professor. There are no required classes, and students are encouraged to focus only on topics that interest them. Although seen as taboo to some people, Evergreen’s lack of grading has been a success for them so far.

Evergreen is not the first college to use this approach, many schools around the world have adopted a new and more alternative way to measure a student’s understanding of subjects. New College of Florida, Sarah Lawrence College, and even Brown University are just a few examples of colleges that do not use the conventional system of letter grades and GPA.

The majority of high schools and universities use GPA and traditional grading. However, as the years have gone by, it has proven to not be the most effective way to evaluate a student’s real knowledge. By changing the way schools assess their students, it changes the overall conversation of why we learn. Do we learn just to get a good grade? Or do we learn because we are inspired and interested in the world around us?

Although changing a system like this would take time and work, students are ready for a change when it comes to their education.

Dayana Fairchild is a multimedia journalism major from Shoreline, Wash. She can be contacted at 335-1140 or at [email protected]. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the views of The Daily Evergreen, its editors or publishers.