University of Wisconsin’s undergrads might recall the anxiety of submitting their high school transcript with their college application.

Students may feel this way in part because most colleges in America rely heavily on GPA to determine who is accepted, with UW boasting a competitive average of a 3.86 to 4.0 in its incoming freshman classes.

A student’s GPA, or grade point average, is a number reflecting the average of all final grades on their school’s transcript and is often one of the biggest determinants of a students’ future directly out of school, whether that is continuing in college or going straight into the workforce.

When UW  and other schools across the nation chose not to require standardized test scores for fall 2020 applicants because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it sparked the debate over whether or not ACT and SAT scores should continue to be used by college admissions officials at all. Along those lines, it is a pivotal moment to take a look into America’s GPA system and why it is worth considering dismantling it entirely.

There are many reasons why students and experts agree the GPA system of measuring intelligence and ability is flawed. As many who have experienced the stress of receiving their transcript or report card will tell you, the emphasis placed on earning a high letter grade is often valued more than learning itself.

A Stanford Academic Cheating Fact Sheet found 73% of all test takers believed most students cheat at some point in their academic career, with levels of cheating among high school students rising substantially over the past 50 years. They also found that grades have become the main priority over education.

UW campus shows signs that vaccinations are best in fight against COVID-19After a year and a half of mostly online classes, University of Wisconsin administrators worried about how in-person classes would Read…

GPA also fails to weigh other aspects of a student’s life circumstances. There is no accounting for mental health exemptions, time being divided between academics and other responsibilities such as family care or employment, or even differences in how individuals best learn material.

Grade point average is not consistent on national scale in high schools. Many private schools, for example, do not adhere to the traditional 4.0 scale, which undercuts the argument that GPA provides universities and employers with a universal baseline to quickly judge individuals on.

Skeptics of dismantling the GPA system argue without it, there is no universal way to compare students to one another. It does raise the question of how you choose recipients of competitive scholarships or college admission decisions, which have always relied heavily on GPA. 

This seems to largely be the case at UW. Though UW boasts their holistic application process, grades are still the main admission determinant. One positive of our current system is that it is easily quantifiable and therefore easy to group students into boxes. There are many alternative methods, however, of measuring student intelligence that could take over GPA’s role.

UW emergency pandemic aid creates equity, could use more vettingThe University of Wisconsin recently started distributing $28.6 million in emergency pandemic aid to students. The money comes from the Read…

American University looked at six potential options that could replace GPA. One commonality between these replacements was their flexibility. Mastery-based education, for example, involves students practicing a concept until they become proficient in it before moving onto the next level.

This pliant timeline and no-fail policy ensures students can focus on learning without the pressure of needing to master a skill in a finite amount of time to pass the class. Similarly, a pass-fail system would take the pressure off students to achieve high earning grades. Instead, they could focus more time on broadening their skillset with extracurriculars and employment.

Another option suggested by experts is switching to a portfolio-based showcase of skill. In this structure, scholars could create a collection of their best work and would get the opportunity to explain each piece in their selection.

Critical Race Theory opponents twist meaning for political gain, discussions on race, diversity belong in classroomsLast month, Wisconsin Republicans introduced a series of bills threatening to cut state funding of any public Wisconsin school by Read…

Not only would students get the opportunity to self-reflect on their work — it would give professors a holistic view of their progress, as most portfolios would be built throughout the entire academic year.

This type of grading system also places more emphasis on skills other than memorization and copying, such as critical thinking, oral and written communication, and applying knowledge to real-world settings.

Overall, a more broad and qualitative measurement of student ability might be the best replacement of the grade-focused GPA system we have now. Because of its holistic nature and adaptability, systems like these would account for different life circumstances and mental conditions, ultimately making the U.S. education system the welcoming learning environment it has always strived to be.

Fiona Hatch ([email protected]) is a freshman studying political science and international studies.