Monday, July 26, 2010

Grading Moratorium: Matt Guthrie

Matt Guthrie has joined the Grading Moratorium. Want to join? Here's how.

Matt Guthrie
Garner, North Carolina, USA
7th Grade Math/Alg 1, Clayton Middle School
Men of Distinction Advisor

I too want to abolish grading. My journey in the Abolishing Grading movement began about twenty years ago when as a beginning teacher in the largest high school in the state I refused to grade homework. My colleagues were flabbergasted. "How will you get them to do it?" they asked. My response was if they want or need to practice they'll do it. My decision was motivated by my own experience as a senior when I never did my pre-calculus homework, yet aced every test.

Fast forward. Today, I am a middle school math and science teacher. I experimented with standards based grading in my sixth grade science classes last year. It was difficult for the gifted kids, who were accustomed to getting 100's all the time. The detox period was only a few weeks long. No one complained. It was great. In one month, I get 85% of those same kids back as a seventh grade math teacher. I plan to do the same.

However, I must admit to feeling more than just a little apprehension about the affair. Science wasn't a "tested" subject. Math is. In fact it is tested to the max. There are quarterly benchmark tests that are tracked by the county. Then the real deal comes in May when the federally mandated, state developed, final arbiter of all things holy and not test is given. I have to admit to questioning my professional judgment on assessing the kids in ways you describe. What if I rate a kid higher than he or she should be and they really don't know squat? That one fear makes me more than a little queasy because I know that I will face the waiver inquisition in the end.

Luckily, I have a supportive admin. I also see this as an opportunity that will keep me honest. I can't be slack and simply pass out skill sheets to be marked as my form of assessment. I have to really get to know all 75 of my kids, their strengths and weaknesses. It will make me a better educator if I believe in it enough to do it right. I'm still in the early stages of my journey to abolish grades. It's a trip I've been planning for years. But I'm very excited about taking it.

Contact Information:

Twitter: @mattguthrie
Phone: 919-553-5811

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