Failure promotes growth


Matt Ellis, Associate editor

A few weeks ago, my 5-year-old sister wrote the word “red” as “reb” on a pizza box after dinner. I smiled and gently corrected her, then asked her to try to spell it again on her own under the image of Papa John. On her third attempt, she spelled it correctly, breaking out into a grin. Reflecting on this experience made me realize the effect that failure has on learning.

Failure, as demonstrated above, is vital. It illuminates your weaknesses and reveals what needs to be done to fix them. It encourages growth and pushes you to work harder, which results in thorough comprehension and increased ability.

In the classroom, the importance of failure cannot be understated. When I fail, I see it as a way to figure out what I need to focus on when studying for the next test. When I mistakenly wrote that the navel was a part of the nose on my last anatomy quiz, I made sure I knew that it was actually the belly button by the time of the unit exam.

Mastery grading, in some aspects, has inhibited the ability of a student to fail. While I feel that the new policy has rightfully eliminated the inflation of past grades, the implementation of a baseline low score mitigates many students’ motivation, knowing that the lowest score they can get is a 50.

This policy unjustly allows students who put in no effort to pass, mistakenly leading them to believe they’re ready for college, when they truly aren’t.

The low score characteristic of mastery grading has left me questioning the thought process of the school board. Imagine a student taking a graded drill in his algebra class. After staying up all night watching game seven of the World Series, he decides that he would rather not complete the drill. He stares into space, fails the drill and still ends up with a solid fifty percent.

This problem degrades the constructive learning process that mastery grading was intended to promote: encouraging actual learning by eliminating grade inflation. While we no longer have filler classwork and homework assignments to boost our grades, we do have the lowest score policy to keep them from tanking. This part of the policy should be a red flag for administrators.

Proponents might argue that a 0 percent decimates an average and is virtually impossible to overcome. But the mastery grading policy allows for redos, which permits students to both demonstrate new knowledge and overcome any poor grades that no longer represent what they know.

There’s value in getting a 0. The pressure that it exerts cannot be duplicated through an automatic 50 percent.