What Are the Disadvantages of School Without Grades?

Written by drew lichtenstein
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What Are the Disadvantages of School Without Grades?
Some schools don't have grades, and, thus, don't have report cards. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Schools without grades exist both at the secondary level in some private schools and at the collegiate level, including in some well-known, prestigious universities. Brown University offers students the option to take classes without grades, and Yale Law School does not give grades. While schools without grades offer some inherent advantages, several possible disadvantages must be considered before a student, or a parent, chooses to enrol in one.

No Basis of Comparison

Without grades, you are unable to compare yourself to either your peers or, alternatively, yourself. For example, in a class with grades, if you receive a 60 per cent, or an F on most grading scales, on a test, you can safely assume you are somewhere near the bottom of the class and that you may need to seek tutoring help because, in general, most students are doing well and you are not. Without a grade, however, you may not know about your deficiency in the class and, thus, you may not seek assistance.

Job and School Applications

Schools without grades offer several advantages, such as more of a focus on a holistic education, less emphasis on "grade grubbing" and more emphasis on actual education. As of 2011, however, these sort of schools are still generally considered progressive. The reality is that the world of higher education and prospective employers still put a heavy emphasis on grades, and students who attend schools without grades may be at a stark disadvantage when applying to colleges or jobs. Yale and Brown can get away without having grades because students graduating from them have the name recognition of an Ivy League school; not all schools without grades are as fortunate.


Schools without grades can succeed because teachers expect students to be motivated in their studies. This sort of expectation can be realised at a school such as Yale or Brown. At a less prestigious institution, though, grades serve a necessary factor because they motivate students to take their schoolwork seriously. Without grades, a high possibility exists that several students may choose to be slack in their efforts because they know little oversight holds them responsible for their work ethic.

Change of Mindsets

Transitioning to an educational system without grades can prove to be a hardship. The U.S. educational system has used grades for such a long time that it may be too much to expect students to go from a school with grades to a school without grades. Students who had done well with grades may suddenly feel depressed that they lost their achievement recognition, while students who had struggled with grades may take advantage of the opportunity and, thus, slip through the cracks. The advantages of a school without grades exists, but it should be a system available only to students who prove they can handle the change.

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