Changes in school policies create even more stress for students

Nowadays there are many sources of stress for high school students, not the least of which is school itself. During the past year, several significant changes at Ames High School have increased the amount of stress students must handle. These include the tougher requirements for graduation, the new plus-minus grading scale, the decision to now include grades from ISU classes in students’ GPAs and so forth. From what I have observed, it appears the primary purpose of these changes is to increase “rigor” at Ames High. The administration has decided to implement policies that will motivate those students who lack it, and if that results in more awards and banners from U.S. World and News Report, then everybody wins. But wait a second, what about the students? It seems when the well-being of students is taken into account, the disadvantages of these new changes outweigh the advantages. Let’s use the new plus-minus grading system as an example. The point of school is obvious – to learn. However, by implementing the new grading system, the administration is placing the emphasis of high school on the wrong focus – grades. Now students must make the hard decision between two options: taking easy classes for good grades and taking challenging ones for knowledge. Many students who are hesitant to take an AP class in the first place would likely just choose the first option and take the normal, easier version of the class to preserve their GPAs. In addition, with the focus on grades, students are more likely to become stressed and obsessive over their performance in classes. Now that a few percentage points transl-ate to a third of a grade point, students can never completely relax. One bad test could mean the difference between a B and a B-, between a 3.00 and a 2.67. The administration does care about the well-being of students, at least to some degree. Frankly, they seem torn when it comes to deciding whether it is worth it to make policy changes that will cause students stress. After all, Ames High does not have class rank due to the fear that it would make academics too competitive for students. Unfortunately, these new changes do not show the same regard. This practice of increasing rigor at Ames High School worries me, especially because there is a similar trend occurring throughout the country. With college admissions becoming more competitive than ever, high schools are naturally scurrying to stand out and give their students an advantage in the college application process. Ames High already does a great job of getting its students into their colleges of choice, though. Perhaps the administration should pay attention to the old adage, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Increasing rigor at Ames High may even end up hurting students’ chances of getting into college. Some of the policy changes, including the new plus-minus grading system and adding grades from ISU classes on transcripts, force students to choose between taking challenging classes and getting a 4.0 GPA. Of course many students would choose the latter. This would put them at a disadvantage when applying to college, since almost all colleges consider a challenging high school curriculum to be more important than a perfect or near-perfect GPA. The impact of these recent policy changes at Ames High will not be fully understood until a few years have passed. Who knows, in the future perhaps Ames High students will be taking more challenging classes and getting higher grades as well. More likely, one will end up getting sacrificed for the other.