Saturday, July 24, 2010

Grading Moratorium: Share your story

Have you abolished grading from your classroom?

Are you currently attempting to abolish grading from your classroom even though you are still expected to grade?

Do you want to abolish grading from your classroom but face numerous challenges, and you really don't know where to start?

If you said yes to even one of the questions above, there are other educators that want you to join them in a grading moratorium.

You can answer the questions below or tell your story any way you like and e-mail it (and a pic) to Your story will then be hosted here. It would be cool if you posted it on your own blog, too.
Remember, if you have abolished grades, are working to abolish grades, or just want abolish grades but haven't yet, you should take part in this grading moratorium.

Questions you could use to share your story:
  • At what stage of the abolish grading game are you?
  • Why do you want to or why did you abolish grading?
  • What do you do in replace of grading?
  • How do you establish a grade if you have no grades?
  • What fears did you have about abolishing grading?
  • What challenges do/did you encounter with abolishing grading?
Are you willing to provide contact information (e-mail, Twitter, blog, Skype, etc) for others who are interested in abolishing grading?

Remember, the criteria for joining the Grading Moratorium is not that you have already entirely abolished grading; if this was the criteria, it would be likely that no educator on the planet would qualify. The criteria for joining the Grading Moratorium is that you are motivated to make efforts to reduce or eliminate grading from your classroom. Here's an example.

Here are other teachers who joined the Grading Moratorium.


  1. i can't honestly say i've abolished grading. i just make sure that every student makes a 100 on every assignment. so i sort of skirt the issue:) my students and i are given the flexibility to work on assignments/projects until they show mastery. i teach high school students with emotional/behavioral disorders.

  2. This is where I am right now! I am trying a new grading system called the 3P Grading System. I just started it this semester and am blogging about it as I go:

  3. We have gone to a Results Only Learning Environment in my class. You can learn more about it here:

    Basically, since my district requires quarterly report card grades, we have to have a final mark. We circumvent this system by focusing on results-only learning activities throughout the quarter. Students work cooperatively and complete projects to demonstrate learning.

    I give constant feedback, related to lessons and objectives. When something does not demonstrate mastery, I ask the students to return to the project and make changes and/or additions.

    At the end of the grading period, I have the students evaluate themselves. They assign the final grade that goes on the report card.

    The challenge was to get students to stop looking for points, percentages or letter grades on activities and projects. It didn't take long for them to see the effectiveness of narrative feedback over points, though. By the second semester, questions about the point value of a project stopped.

    My principal was very supportive, so there was no difficulty with this administratively. Results-only learning has been truly transformative.

  4. I am there too. The main obstacle to this was the conditioned response by the students to "grade-beg." Students would always ask "what's this worth," "why should I try if I'm not going to get a grade," etc. What made it worse was trying to use this system in a class full of gifted students who were used to competing and extrinsically pressured to score higher than their classmates.

    It was an obstacle that I overcame, and granted I was alone in my practice which ultimately contributed to the demise of my job, but I remained true to the beliefs. In the end I won the student's support. They learned more, appreciated more, and experimented more once free of the confines of grading.

    Sadly it was the final straw for a district/school needing to institute layoffs. When faced with a choice of keeping an established teacher who favors grading and test giving versus the new teacher who's taking risks and trying to engage his students, it was the test takers who got to keep their jobs.

  5. @Joe Huber,

    It sounds like you have a story to tell... would you be interested in sharing your tale as a part of this grading moratorium?

  6. I'll join! Our school has been working towards a Standard Based Reporting system and just recently we were directed by the district to ensure that "grades reflect assignments, not learning goals." I'm trying to keep part of the spirit and philosophy in my classroom but it's going to be a difficult battle. The district is combing through our websites and gradebook now too!

    My twitter is Sarahkm3 and my blog is Let's fight the good fight!

  7. I have worked on a middle school team for the past 20 years. Our team has always had standards-based reporting and assessing, which are presented in a portfolio three times a year.

    Unique features to our assessing/reporting:

    1. All students have a personal plan identifying personal goals that extend through all content areas. These goals are selected in a conference with students, parents and teacher in August and September. We like to keep the personal plan to four goals. Each trimester, students put four or so pieces of evidence for each goal, that demonstrates achievement (or current performance) of these goals. They select the evidence and we encourage that the evidence is broad in its content. For example, if they have a writing goal, we encourage to have writing across content areas selected for their portfolio.

    2. Each Friday, students receive a Friday slip, which contains their personal plan goals with room for a reflective comment. Additionally, the Friday slip lists the student's classes. They need to have each teacher initial their Friday slip which communicates to parents that their work is up to date. There is also a line for comments.

    3. For each subject, the teacher sets up their class on "Nexus". He/she will assign standards for the class. Students can then log in and assign one or more of their personal plan standards to the class. In reality every student could have a different report; the class standards and some of the individual standards.

    4. Evaluation of the standards is completed by both student and teacher. We feel that students need to be a partner in assessment. We evaluate the standards using a four level scale; Novice, Apprentice, Practitioner (meeting the standard) and Scholar. Additionally, both teacher and student write a narrative about the student performance in the class. The reports are printed and put into their portfolio.

    5. Portfolio conferences occur after each trimester and take place before/after school. This is a student-led conference that occurs after they have conferenced with their parents at home. I usually schedule 30-45 minute conferences for each of my core students. It is a conversation through which the student demonstrates both reflection and metacognition on thier work for the past 12 weeks. Both are essential skills for learning.

    Traditional grades are an 18th century practice meant to separate students into groups...those that will be successful learners and those that will not. In the 21st Century all students should be successful. Breaking the traditional letter grade paradigm will be challenging and require voices from all levels of the k-16 educational system. We need all students to be proficient and "college/work" ready.

    I believe that the Common Core could be an opportunity to rid ourselves of traditional grades, which do not report student progress on the standards.

    Our program, Nexus, has been developed by my husband and educator, Richard McCraw. There isn't any program out there that allows students to be partners in the assessment process. It is flexible in that I can integrate learning in many disciplines and have theme on the report. For example, all members of my team taught a humanities unit this fall, which included reading, writing, and social studies standards.

    I would encourage people to read Educational Leadership, November 2011 issue, which contains some excellent articles on Standards-based grading as well as other 21st Century thinking about traditional grades.

    My team will be presenting at the 2012 ASCD National Convention in Philadelphia in March. I would love to engage in conversation about this important topic, share what we do, and learn from others who have been thoughtful in their assessment and reporting practices.

  8. My big movement on this topic occurred more from a personal situation than a philosophical one. I was involved in an automobile accident this summer that required me to miss the first nine weeks of school this fall. Other teachers have stepped in to cover my classes, but I am still setting classroom requirements, prepping my material from home, screen casting some lessons, developing online discussions, and doing my very best to provide continuity for the students. In the process, however, I re-evaluated all the daily assignment grading that I had been doing. I already realized that a lot of it was creating a false sense of mastery and "point begging," and some of it was generating unproductive pressure for students who had certain kinds of learning issues but who were genuinely engaged in the content. This fall, I have moved us to a portfolio system with more time flexibility for students, and will have conferences with students weekly in person or via our LMS. My compromise is to preselect a list of items in their portfolio to check when I come to school once a week, so they will receive a single grade on the portfolio at each incremental unit period. That still amounts to a grade for daily work — just of my choice what to grade, not each and every item — and there are better ways to deal with assessment, but at least it moves us all one step away from a complete "checkbox approach" to school, where "I answered the questions, so I deserve the 'A'." As we unplug from that mindset for daily work, we will likewise modify the kind of testing we have always done. I could never completely leave testing behind at my school. Assessment is always a minefield; however, the plan is to move thoughtfully toward creating assessments that reflect a truer picture of students having wrestled with and internalized the big ideas (notice I am doing everything I can not to employ the overused "authentic") and leaves room to accommodate differences in the wiring of individuals.