Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grading Moratorium: Tyler Rice

Tyler Rice has joined the Grading Moratorium. Want to join? Here's how.

Tyler Rice, NBCT
Biology, Chemistry, Physics Teacher
White Swan High School, White Swan, WA, U.S.A.
Twitter: @MrTRice_Science
Blog: Wisdom Begins with Wonder (

I’ve wanted to abolish grading in my classes for a few years now. Grading has always been my least favorite part of teaching. I love teaching but I hate grading. Why do I hate grading? Because I don’t enjoy sitting by myself and evaluating the quality of someone else’s work and then distilling all of that work down to a single letter or number. Three years ago, I started this journey by no longer giving zeros or late penalties on assignments. I started that process with the minimum 50% policy (students get no less than 50% of the possible points on any assignment, no matter what). Two years ago, I instituted standards-based grading in my classes. It was a major step forward for me in many ways - assessment became more about the learning than the doing of a task. However, I still felt that something was wrong. Kids didn’t understand their grades. Neither did parents. I was still sitting by myself (mostly) awarding grades to student work. Don’t get me wrong, I did a fair amount of self and peer assessment but the final say still came down to me.

Last spring, I came across Joe Bower’s blog, “for the love of learning.” I voraciously read everything on his blog. Some articles more than once. I shared them with peers. I used his feedback form with my students. Most importantly, I sat down with my students for the grading of their final project of the year and I had them tell me what grade they deserved and why they deserved that grade. I asked questions and made observations about their work but I left the final say for the grade up to them. That was the most I had ever enjoyed grading - because I wasn’t doing it!

My intention for this coming year is to do the best I can with the requirements of my system. I teach high school science. We are required to post athletic eligibility grades weekly, give progress reports every other week, and post final grades at the end of each quarter. All of this takes place on a computer system that parents, students, administrators and fellow educators can access. Therefore, I plan to place the burden of grading onto the students. Much like I did in last spring’s trial run, I plan to conference with students when possible and ask them to grade themselves. When that isn’t possible, I plan to create a self-grading sheet for students to complete and submit to me for data entry. If students are grading themselves too high or, more likely, too low, I will conference with them to try to reconcile our difference of opinion.

Because I am moving to 100% project based learning, students will only have a few graded assignments per quarter. They will also create electronic portfolios of their best works. These portfolios will be the evidence that they will use at the end of each semester to assign themselves a grade. Furthermore, the electronic portfolios will be in the form of publicly available blogs that I will advertise to parents and other teachers so that they can view them and leave comments.

My greatest fears with going to this type of grading scheme are that parents or administrators will not approve of it. I hope to be able to alleviate their concerns with quality student work that is readily available to them at all times. I also have a goal to keep my classroom blog much more up to date this year with photos, videos and descriptions of current class activities. Hopefully this will lend a greater amount of transparency for all stakeholders with respect to the activities in my classroom. More importantly, I hope that abolishing grading (as much as I can anyway) will lead to greater student motivation and learning in my classroom.


  1. This is a lot like the way that I am moving with my Physics and Geometry classes...more projects...ePortfolios...self assess...grading discussions...fear that parents and admin won't understand ("that is not how we were graded")...How to get it be all about the learning while still reporting a grade. I am thinking about asking my Senior Physics students, "What grade do you want" and the following discussions will be "Are you doing "B" work"
    SBG and Mastery learning will be a journey

  2. Hey, Paul, I have my 7th graders give themselves a final grade for the report card. It has been an unbelievable success. They are remarkably honest (several have assigned grades of F). I still get C's and D's, but most students have realized that all they have to do is take my feedback and make necessary changes to activities and projects, and they have done well enough to earn an A or a B.

    My students are enjoying my class more than any ever have before and they are learning. Give self-evaluation a chance; I think you'll love the results.


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