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Are Students Really Learning?

Submitted by on March 14, 2019 – 2:35 pm

Students in America are sent to school five days a week, for most of their young lives. From ages 5-18, students spend hours and hours in classrooms, being presented with information that their teachers received from spending hours in a classroom also. And why do we send children to school for so much time? What reasoning is there behind prioritizing education in our society? Well we want them to learn, of course! We see an educated youth as the wellbeing of the future, and we place such high importance on this because it is critical that students are learning so they can have the best opportunities and we can see the best future. General school systems are set up directly for the purpose of learning. But what if students aren’t learning?  Should the system stay the same? What if that learning is being imposed by the school system itself? Is it time for a change?

In our very own Polson High School, a majority of students are reporting that they simply memorize information from test to test to make sure their grade is presentable, rather than attempting to learn and gain understanding of the subjects they’re being presented with.We surveyed 180 students who ranked themselves on a 10-point scale from very poor student to honors student. We asked whether they simply memorized things or worked to conceptualize and understand what they were being taught. (See Graphs) After analyzing the results, We found  that 57% of all surveyed students who attend Polson High School fit into the “Memorize” category of learning, leaving only 43% who genuinely understand and retain the knowledge. There was a much wider range of student performance among those who memorized information, and much more variation on the 10-point scale. Those who reported understanding and using what was learned most commonly rated themselves an 8 on the honors student scale, with 59% of them rating themselves between 8 and 10.

Write-ins on over 20 of the 184 surveys taken, reported that students have a difficult time retaining information for long periods of time if it’s not interesting to them. Many students aren’t interested in the things that are taught in classrooms. It’s known that not all students are going to graduate and go to college. Some will go to trade school, some will go directly into working. These students obviously don’t all have the same interests and won’t retain the same information as the college go-ers that public schools are focused on creating. But, by the same token, it would be nearly impossible to create an individualized system that fits all students. Nonetheless, we are faced with a problem: students aren’t learning, and something must be done.

“I’m too busy focusing on my grades looking good. I don’t have any time to actually learn the information,” said a student who asked to remain anonymous. Many students would rather show off a glowing report card than their understanding of a topic. Grades were designed as a simple method of communicating progress, to use them as anything more than that defeats their purpose, according to Mr. Umphrey. Using grades as a basis of measuring students competency rather than simply a means of expressing their progress shifts a students priorities from learning the material to making sure they have a slip of paper with seven A’s. When there isn’t enough time to digest and process information, which many students believe there isn’t in high school, there is time left only to cram and memorize. Once the unit test is a thing of the past, so is the students’ interest in learning about the topic. A student with a 4.0 GPA and an A+ on a test will be regarded as the most intelligent, where as a student who is falling behind to find extra time for comprehension will have nothing to show for it. In the fast-paced fact-based public education system of today, students report that they would rather have something physical to show to others (such as their report card) rather than knowledge for themselves.  

In this education system focused on teaching our youth, a lack of true knowledge is all too prevalent. A system of grades and grade point averages is clouding the minds of students, and leaving no room for comprehension. The education of these young minds is getting in the way of their learning.