Social Studies Department Blocks Out Grades Over Winter Break


Annie Qiao

While other individual teachers may be blocking access to students’ grades over the break, this is the first time the entire social studies department will be testing this new procedure.

Manan Mendiratta and Annie Qiao

Over winter break, the entire social studies department will be blacking out grades on Aeries in an attempt to decrease grade-related stress and prepare students for college, where students are also blocked from viewing their grades after final exams.

“The grade really isn’t going to change at all over the break, so for me and for students especially, I was hoping that it would be a break,” social studies teacher Heidi Martasian said. “Because I’m trying to follow the spirit of having a true break, I thought that blacking [the grades] out would be maybe less stressful for students.”

This trial will be especially important for the teachers to see the benefits and disadvantages to blacking grades out for different grade levels because it is the first year that Portola High administered finals before winter break.

“I think the rest of the school is curious to see how it goes; I’m certainly curious about how it goes from the students’ perspective,” Martasian said. “Instead of me being the only one to try [blacking out grades], with multiple teachers trying it, I think that would collect better data that way. We can all have different experiences with it, so the more people who try it, at least, will be useful for collecting information.”

Theoretically, by not being able to view their grades, students can spend time over the winter break relaxing knowing that their grades are mostly finalized. The new system additionally reflects grading at the collegiate level, where students are free from having to worry about their grades during breaks, although in college those grades tend to be fixed after final exams.

However, based on the structure of different courses, such as math or science, some students are concerned that this new system could lead to more stress instead of relaxation if implemented across all classes.

“I feel like it’s a good idea, but it won’t be followed through by everyone because obviously if you black out grades, students regardless are going to be worried and anxious about their grades, but if you don’t block out grades then students will have the same anxiety,” junior Madison Empalmado said.

While some students find the change ineffective because they feel added stress from the uncertainty of blacked-out grades, others are glad that they can avoid the anxiety of checking grades every day during winter break.

“Personally for me, I think that’s better because I don’t want to think about school over break,” senior Garrett Lim said. “I just want to spend time with my family and friends, relax and get a whole new mindset for the second semester coming up by starting fresh.”