Sunday, October 3, 2010

Grading Moratorium: Mark Kuniya

Mark Kuniya has joined the Grading Moratorium.Want to join? Here's how.

Mark Kuniya
9th grade English 
Carson Valley Middle School in Gardnerville, NV.

At what stage of the abolish grading game are you?

I decided just last summer to abolish grading in my classroom. Fortunately, my administrators have been supportive and several co-workers are interested in what I’m doing this year. I have just started what will be a very long road.

Why do you want to or why did you abolish grading?

I am tired of student apathy. A love for learning and independent thinking has disappeared at my school. And it’s not just the students—many of my co-workers talk about teaching as if it’s something to be abhorred rather than loved. Furthermore, the students are not at the center of the classroom.

What do you do in replace of grading?

I am required to give a grade every six weeks for progress reports. This year my English students are compiling personal portfolios and are evaluating their own progress.

How do you establish a grade if you have no grades?

Taking from Joe and Alfie Kohn’s examples, I’ve brought the kids in on deciding their grades. Students keep their work in their portfolios, evaluate what and how they have learned, and then conference with me by communicating about their progress. We’re still in the early stages. As of now, all forms of assessment have been in the form of written comments and verbal feedback. Before school started this year, I purged my filing cabinets of every multiple-choice quiz and test. I have also given up teaching grammar with useless worksheets. Lastly, my students almost never have homework.

What fears did you have about abolishing grading?

I fear that my students will not develop an intrinsic love for learning. I fear that I am being viewed as the “easy teacher”. I fear that motivation will decline even further and that my students’ performance will reflect that.

What challenges do/did you encounter with abolishing grading?

Motivation. Many times recently I have been compelled to threaten my students with grades because they have yet to see the true value in what we do in class. This year I am teaching my first honors English class. Unfortunately, many of the honors students are accustomed to working for high GPA’s, straight A’s, and, even worse, working just to please the teacher. Most days I feel like they are not being challenged.

Are you willing to provide contact information (e-mail, Twitter, blog, Skype, etc) for others who are interested in abolishing grading?

Absolutely. My email address is I’m working on starting a blog and can also be found on Facebook.

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