The Scores Do Matter
David Brooks (whose columns I usually dislike intensely) writes in today's New York Times that high school seniors should be less stressed about getting into college. He describes, pretty accurately, the personality-crushing "achievement machine" that high school has become for college bound kids, who struggle to balance intense extracurricular activities with the need for high grades in all classes. But, he adds, one's SAT scores and grades matter less and less, and these things really have no bearing on adulthood.
I wish this were true. Among my high achieving college juniors and seniors, there's still a lot of anxiety about these things, because potential employers set such store by them. One junior who applied for a summer internship on Wall Street told me he was required to provide his high school transcript, his SAT scores, and his recommenders were supposed to account for any grades he had received that were below a 90. Another anxious junior explained to me that in order to retain a summer internship he had to keep a 3.75, and if he got a B+ in my class he couldn't do that. Both of these students were good kids, were doing B+/A- work, weren't sleeping, and spent hours in my office over the course of the semester begging for my assistance in doing even better so they would remain competitive.
This is truly sad. My students' adult lives are being reduced to a set of numbers and letters, which any teacher is going to tell you are usually not the best indicators for telling how well a person will do in the world. It also makes one wonder what came first, the chicken or the egg: grade inflation, or the soul-crushing reliance on numbers that makes everyone vie for an A and that makes a B+ a punitive grade.