It’s Time for Live Grades

A visible grade in front of us makes us want to act.

Graham Rifkin, Contributor

Open your online Assignment Center, click “progress,” and enter what would be the live grades section. Instead of percentages, you see little black lines next to each class. Black lines are not what I, or you, should want to see. These black lines add mystery to a subject that does not need it: our grades 

In this culture, we treat grades as indicators of our intelligence. They determine where we get into college, the classes we participate in, and our overall GPA. Considering the importance grades have, it seems only fair that we should have complete and transparent access to them. Whether these numbers truly define our intelligence or not, they are serious determiners in our lives.

“The perfect example is that one low grade you got in history,” my mom, Kris Rifkin, says with a smirk. “The Friends School system had no idea how upset that would make you and us. We would have done something a lot sooner, had we realized that was your grade.”

Although we can joke about it now, we remember all too well the stress I went through to bring up this grade as I approached the end of the semester. Echoing arguments the school has heard from many parents, my mom says she is somewhat perturbed to be paying $30,000 a year for her kid to attend Friends School without the option of seeing these grades. 

This is not a new problem for my family, either. My sister Tyler Rifkin, class of ’19, dealt with it too.

“I remember struggling with not knowing what my grades were at the time, or especially entering the quarter,” she says. “I remember struggling for sure.”

I almost get deja vu as she references how she struggled in school. Her grades were a mystery until she received that dreaded report card.

This dread does not need to be there. Students at nearby schools, where they also use an electronic Blackbaud interface, are able to see their grades, because their schools have made the decision to make them visible.

“I can see my grades whenever,” exclaims Roland Park Country School senior Caroline Rice. A puzzled look comes across her face when she hears that there is no way I can not see mine. So simple, yet impactful. Her normal is something I strive for.

And it’s not just my family. When I asked the kids in my Journalism class if they felt they would perform better if they could see their grades on Assignment Center, all but one claimed they would. My peers largely agree that live grades are something that  should change – not just for our peace of mind, but as a possible wake-up call.

“I do remember in my Spanish II class, my teacher had it set up in a way with Google Classroom that we did have a period of time where grades were available,” says senior Leo Scharff. “There was a specific moment where I did not submit a homework assignment and my grade dropped significantly. That alone was motivation to go speak to my teacher a ton.”

The majority of the student body seems to agree:  a visible grade in front of us makes us want to act. The mystery does nothing. 

All my life I have worked so hard to see that red ink A adorning the top of my tests, quizzes, and essays. We students work ourselves tirelessly for these numbers. It would be ideal to assume that the learning is what matters and not the grades. Sadly, where we are in the education system I know for a fact whoever is reading my college application will go straight to my grades. 

I am a senior and will be leaving the Friends School soon, but that does not mean this discussion will end. For the welfare of the student body it is critical that we can see our grades on the Assignment Center. I call on the Administration to make this change, that will save so many kids hours of pain and worrying over grades.