Why Some People Get Good Grades: And Why Others Don’t (12-15 min read)

Anant Bhattacharya

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When people think of grades at Gulf, they’re reminded of that infamous My Student portal that systematically, records, stores, and categorized students’ grades, academic scores, and disciplinary records. This system, as many people tend to forget, is a key factor of consideration by many colleges and universities in determining which students get placed into the college of their dreams, or to that of lesser quality, or none. And, when traced back to this system, after college, when students begin their careers and enter adulthood, they at this point may reflect upon how they scored back in high school as recorded in this matrix, filled with either great satisfaction or deep regret. And for many, for the rest of their life, this feeling continues.  

Now to those students who are against this system, I am with you. I find that many students despise the current grading system utilized in the United States, and not without good reason. While it may initially appear as being a clear-cut efficient system, it draws on a variety of issues. For example, as a student, do you ever find yourself choosing a course not necessarily because you are interested in it, but rather because it is known as an easy-A course? And do you find yourself, when truly interested in a subject, to be too focused on achieving good grades and completing other mundane and repetitive tasks to focus much time immersing yourself in one project? The harsh truth and reality is that grades, in their very nature help our nation quickly and systemically group and categorize people into restrictive domains. And more importantly, our success is based off and determined by the failure of others. Think about it: if everyone started getting straight As, a C wouldn’t be considered average anymore. And when we compare India to the US, we see this come true, as those who would be Straight-A students here become India’s average (my Indian cousin gets at least 20 pages of homework a day- just for math, and she’s still considered average even after spending her entire life on academics and having multiple tutors). 

There are many reasons why some students may receive good grades while others score rather poorly. Regarding the Straight A students or “nerds”, many may be influenced to pursue good grades due to their home environment and culture. For example, I have some friends of Asian descent who are often pushed to achieve perfect scores, often since their parents are first-generation immigrants who strive to provide their children with a better future than they may have had growing up, and may further understand what life is like without a thorough education to help them in finding their preferred career and receive a decent income. In places such as India, I can personally tell you that it’s not uncommon to find homeless children begging for food on the streets, often with little to no clothing exposing their starved and frail bodies, on the verge of collapse from starvation. Such impoverished and horrific conditions draw light towards the socioeconomic conditions that devastate such places and drive many Indians to aim for the best possible education which can enable them to live a life where they are not plagued by poverty, homelessness, or starvation. This fear drives our desire for financial security. One student, with parents of Trinidadian descent, told me in an interview, “I want to provide the ppl in my life and who I take care of security, and education is a part of that” Another reason why some students may achieve excellent grades is because they are driven to do their schoolwork out of a genuine passion or interest in a particular subject. For example, I love English and Math, and therefore enjoy going above and beyond the standard expectations in delivering a passionately completed project. And with my peers, I see the same diligent and passionate attitude expressed at times. When asked the question” What influences you to receive good grades?”, a GHS Pre-IB Sophomore, whose parents are first-generation European immigrants and is also my best friend, stated “First off, I do it for myself. I strive to get straight A’s so I can be the best possible student there is. I like to have a challenge, which is the main reason I decided to join IB. I have been able to reach this goal for years and hope to continue. On top of that, of course, my parents and family push me to be the best I can. I have lots of support and encouragement in my academics, and they too understand the true value of successful education and what it can provide for me in the future. All around, the combined influence of both my family and my personal agenda to be a successful student is what motivates me to receive good grades.” 

Often, I find wherever I am to contain a fair quantity of students who will often receive average or below average, otherwise classified as “bad”, grades. And often I see for myself, from the perspective of a straight-A student, the cause to a general feeling of apathy expressed by these students. But I’m often wrong. Yes, it is certainly true that many students are apathetic toward their academics, some downright lazy, but in most, we find that this sense of apathy stems from greater and deeper fundamental issues within the student’s life/lifestyle. For example, one of my peers often arrives late to school, and sometimes not at all, and ends up being castigated by our system for this. But what many of us fail to acknowledge is that its not always a student’s fault for being late, or not completing homework. In middle school, I was always late because I was dependent on my mom to get me to school on time. And here, one of my peers who immigrated from a Latin American country, previously a straight-A student, struggles to achieve high scores since she must work and is not completely fluent in English. Many of my peers also have underlying mental issues, ranging from sleep deprivation and insomnia to ADHD, depression, and anxiety. And to a more extreme level, some may be suffering or have suffered from physical, mental, or sexual abuse. The only demographic I see our education system working for at this point are primarily rich, privileged children, who usually do not suffer from such external struggles. Another reason I see many students failing to perform well academically and expressing apathetic behaviors is likely since they simply don’t understand the lifelong implications of their academic effort they exert now. They don’t understand that these four years may determine whether they spend the rest of their life bagging groceries at Publix at minimum wage or working in a corporate office managing retail contracts for Publix, at hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year. When asked “What do you think causes some student to receive poor grades as opposed to others?”, my friend responded: “Well the most obvious answer is that the student doesn’t care to improve, and this is true for some, however, there are many cases in which some students have obstacles (economic/family issues, etc) and simply don’t have the energy or time to maintain those aspects of their personal life along with their path of education. Common misconceptions of bad grades is that they derive from a students intelligence not being sufficient enough or that they are “slackers” and can easily do the work required, but lack of perspective and making such judgments is not only inconsiderate but also ignorant and selfish, this foul pool of arrogance does nothing but drown victims of circumstance, high school is a time for shaping and making of people, and to assume that their grades reflect their work ethic and intelligence when combined with all elements of life is absurd. Teachers in AP and IB aren’t expected to reach out to their students when they see them struggling, but the least they can do is sympathize and try to provide accommodations (time during lunch/after school, more time on assignments). Students are accountable for completing their work, teachers and faculty are accountable for their students’ learning. Bad grades don’t just fall on the student’s lack of smarts or principles, they encompass that student’s situation as a whole.” 

 

Now to those of you reading this who don’t always get the most optimal or preferable grades, here are some tips for how you can improve your grades: 

  1. MAKE YOUR ACADEMICS YOUR NO.1 PRIORITY  
  2. Get Organized- Get a planner to write assignments and due dates down, organize your backpack by period and keep all work in folders (no loose papers!) 
  3. Focus- Ask all the questions you have (don’t be shy), don’t get distracted or make yourself a distraction, study ahead of time, seek help (teachers and tutors), and DO YOUR WORK