Opinion: Grades matter for reasons other than intelligence

ASU students should focus on their grades for employability purposes

From the beginning of the semester to its bittersweet end, Blackboard is the best friend of many ASU students. It enables them to submit assignments online, keep track of due dates and, perhaps most appreciated, check their grades continually throughout the semester.

The importance of these grades in regard to a student’s intelligence and future success, however, is often debated. 

Read The State Press opinion counterpoint: Grades don't correlate with a student's intelligence

While grades are neither accurate for measuring intelligence, nor are they particularly standardized, students should still view them as important because of their national and international prevalence, high regard in the job market and potential grade requirements for other academic and extracurricular activities.

Kimberly Lansdowne, founding executive director of ASU’s Herberger Young Scholars Academy, said that a high intelligence correlates not to grades, but to a student’s speed of learning.

“My definition that I use for having a high intelligence is that kids are able to learn more rapidly than their chronological peer group,” Lansdowne said.

Although grades may not be representative of a student’s intelligence, they can be indicative of other important factors for employability, such as motivation and work ethic.

“I think that it’s kind of a myth that all highly gifted kids get good grades,” Lansdowne said. “I think perseverance, motivation and inner drive really contribute to higher grades more than IQ does. You can have a really bright student, but if they don’t persevere, they aren’t motivated and they don’t have inner drive, there’s not a direct correlation between that."

Many companies place emphasis on behavioral interviews designed to evaluate candidates based on their problem-solving, decision making and collaborative skills — attributes that cannot be discerned by just looking at GPA and technical skills.

"There are certainly some really high-IQ kids where learning comes really easily to them, and they don’t have to work as hard to get good grades,” Lansdowne said. “But, there’s going to come a time, probably in college, where it ceases to be that easy, and what do you do? You have to have to have perseverance.”

Students should keep in mind that while important, technical skills alone will not be enough to carry them to success throughout their careers.

In the more immediate future, students should focus on maintaining good grades in order to apply for academic scholarships, many of which have a minimum GPA requirements, as well as study abroad opportunities with the University.

Graphic published on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.

While the system of assigning As and Bs to students is not the most relevant measure of evaluating a student’s merit, employers still look at GPA. It is also extremely relevant if a student wants to get a masters or doctorate.

ASU employs a plus/minus system of grading, to the benefit or dismay of students, as it can provide an extra boost or a slight decrease in their GPA.

Still, students who check grades online should take that information with a grain of salt, as there is some subjectivity in the way grades are assigned.

“I’m not a grade proponent,” Lansdowne said. “I think grades are very subjective, and they depend on the person who is deciding what that grade is … And then lot of times, behavior is really part of that grade. It’s so subjective.”

The grading system may be subjective, but so is the job market. There is not a perfect way of evaluating how proficient a student or candidate may be.

Ultimately, while grades are not a measure of intelligence and are unfortunately not standardized, they are still a widely used system of measuring academic progress and deserve consideration.

“If you can figure out a way of standardizing grades, even from one school to another, you’ve solved an educational problem that’s been in existence since the beginning of educational time,” Lansdowne said. “Standardizing is very difficult — what you think is mastery and what I think is mastery is very different.”

Reach the columnist at kalbal@asu.edu or follow @KarishmaAlbal on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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