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Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

The hidden grades paradox: why Webb students should see their total grade

Elena Petrova
During office hours, Sydney Becker (‘24) checks in with Sarah Trobaugh, Mathematics Department faculty, about her total grade percentage for Precalculus. “I understand that it [having total grades hidden] is frustrating for students because they like to know where they are,” Ms. Trobaugh said. “My policy is that students can always come to me and ask about their grades and I’m happy to share with them all the time.”

Twice a year, every Webb student sits nervously in front of their computer or phone, takes a deep breath, and logs in to SIS. Their cortisol level spikes, their palms become sweaty, and their heart rate surges as they wait for the page to load, revealing their semester grades. As they scan the screen, their eyes quickly dart from one grade to another in search of a letter that would indicate either an improvement or a setback.  

Suddenly, a wave of disappointment overwhelms them – they see a grade lower than expected. They begin to think, “When did the grade drop?”, and “How had I not noticed it before?”  

Starting from this school year, Webb teachers only need to post grades for individual assignments, a policy that allows teachers to decide whether to make the total grade visible or not. 

Canvas, a learning management system used by Webb students and faculty, provides the option of calculating total grade percentages by adding up the points earned by a student across all graded assignments and quizzes. Although the mathematical calculations performed by Canvas are precise, they don’t consider variations in assignment weights and features of traditional and standards-based grading, which sometimes causes inaccurate reflections in the final grade percentage.   

“Even though Canvas is a computer, it can sometimes make wonky little errors that will yield lots of stress on the back end,” said Michael Hoe, Director of Studies.  

By choosing to hide total grades on Canvas, teachers may believe it is a way to lower academic stress among students. Academic anxiety as a result of constantly checking grades is often counterproductive, negatively impacting learning and performance. 

“Having been a student who is highly stressed out and highly motivated by grades, tracking all the minor fluctuations would create more stress than is helpful,” Ms. Trobaugh said.  

While hiding grades on Canvas does not have a direct impact on a student’s GPA, it may affect their understanding of their current academic performance.  

“I feel like the students need to know their current grades at the current time, especially for juniors’ and seniors’ applications,” said Esteban Vazquez, World Languages Department faculty. 

With hidden total grades, some students find it difficult to monitor their progress. With not being able to see the results of their coursework, students cannot promptly adjust their study habits or reach out to teachers for help.  

“With rubric grading, knowing which criteria I am strongest at and which I need additional work is important to my learning,” Xenon Poon (‘25) said. “Especially when teachers do not give additional feedback with the grades, it makes it harder to know what I need to work on to improve my work.”  

Although disabling the demonstration of total grade reduces stress caused by obsessive grade-checking, uncertainty about academic progress adds more stress onto grade conscious students.  

“I would rather know that I am doing bad and feel bad about it, than not know that I am doing bad and feel good about it,” Joy Li (‘24) said. 

Some Canvas calculations might not have been perfectly accurate; nevertheless, they provided students with an overall idea of where they stood in a class. Without the option of monitoring the total grade percentage throughout the semester, some may eventually end up with a lower grade than expected.  

“I do fully acknowledge that being uncertain about grades leads to a lot more anxiety, that’s something that we’ve talked about in academic council a lot in terms of how to make it a little bit less confusing,” Mr. Hoe said.  

The inconsistency of total grade percentage visibility on Canvas is a complex issue that not only impacts students’ academic performance, but their mental wellbeing too. While some teachers believe that hiding grades reduces stress, the uncertainty about academic progress often ends up increasing it. Keeping close tabs on students’ stress levels is important, but what is indeed crucial is enabling students to focus on their progress and succeed to the best of their abilities.  

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About the Contributor
Elena Petrova
Elena Petrova, Copy Editor
Elena Petrova (‘25) calls Moscow home, knowing every street and every pigeon, and yet she has been chased through the city for holding a piece of paper questioning the authority of her country's president. Always wanting her voice heard, she fights for her future and her community, hoping for a day when Russia can be free. As such, Elena looks forward to indulging her fascination with Russian and Soviet history and culture in Advanced Studies Cold War class. She also gives others a voice: as a passionate learner of many languages, she helps six students, including a Webb alum, embark on their linguistic journeys by teaching them English and Russian. As a Webbie, Elena serves this community as a prefect in Appleby, and a stage manager for this year’s fall play. Though she is very busy, you can also find her cooking new recipes, including her favorite dish: ratatouille. This year, Elena hopes to balance her urge to serve others with protecting her mental health and well-being. At the Webb Canyon Chronicle, she hopes to continue making the student community’s voice heard through more opinion articles, understanding that authority shall be questioned.   Favorite song:  ОГНЕЙ by SALUKI

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