Congratulations Ten-Year-Olds! You Just Applied to College.

By Faith Gonia

Imagine if your success in the work world was based solely upon written interactions — no interviews, no face-to-face connections, just words on paper to affirm your capabilities. In reality, resumes are simply an introduction — a stepping stone in the path towards an interview. If prospective employers can understand that qualifications of applicants exceed a two page summary, why can’t our education system?

In sixth grade, my classmates and I took a math test which determined our course placement for the year following. I did not know it at the time, but my performance on that assessment (as a ten-year-old) would establish the math classes I took in high school and beyond. As a junior, my fellow pupils who take AP Statistics or AP Calculus all “passed” that math exam in middle school, allowing them to be a year ahead today. Advanced classes, like Statistics or Calculus, immensely enhance a college application and increase odds of acceptance. Thus, our proficiency in dividing fractions as prepubescent children influences the results of our college applications as young adults. 

Sure, if a student wishes to counteract their sixth grade score, they can enroll in summer school, but should the default structure favor those who performed well as children? Schooling prior to ninth grade should revolve around building foundational skills necessary for higher education; it should not have a negative impact on a student’s success. The current system allows for a single test result — a summary of a particular moment in time — to delimit a student’s overall mathematical skill. Congratulations ten-year-olds! Without even knowing, you just outlined the rest of your academic career by taking a forty-five minute test. 

With today’s youth categorized based on academic status so early in their life, it is no surprise that so many of them develop an unhealthy relationship with their grades. Our school, like others, labels students as a grade point average: free pizza for 3.0 GPAs and above only, earn a graduation cord if you maintain at least a 3.5! Each time you win a grade-related prize, your obsession intensifies. If you don’t, you feel inferior. It’s a lose-lose scenario. In the enforcement of students’ value as simply a digit out of four, victims of this imposition begin to see themselves as that number. The system not only defines students as merely a rank, but poisons their mindsets to emulate that same label. 

A transformation of our education system is long overdue. Students deserve to be recognized as individuals with complex academic identities, not contingent upon their GPA or test scores. I fear for our generation and those that follow, for we are condemned to a mentality that attaches our worth to a number.