Saturday, November 20, 2010

Save yourself the trouble

I was told the other day that if I just stopped telling people that I don't grade, I would save myself a lot of "trouble". After all, they said, I do have to grade on the report card.

My response...

Sure, technically I do grade but only because I am forced to.

And if I choose not to talk about it, I might indeed avoid "trouble", but then how will anything ever improve?

A reluctance to ask provocative questions or discuss inconvenient problems only helps to perpetuate the institution of the status quo.

If educational leaders value a "smile or die" culture of compliance more than a culture of active inquiry & open collaboration progress comes to a screaming halt.


  1. I was able to get permission to do a dual-grade system where I take the standards, write student-friendly objectives and then have the students and myself both write the progress toward the standard (not in grades, but in authentic feedback). There is no letter grade, just mutual feedback. At the very end, the student looks at the form and gives a letter grade and that's what we end up with on the official report card.

  2. Similar to my final years teaching HS mathematics: I insisted to my students that they would tell me the grade to record on their report card. During the semester, students identified goals and evidence that those goals had been achieved. I directed the goals to include statements about demonstration of content understanding, student behaviors (such as consistency with homework, being prepared for class, etc.), classroom activity (such as participating in group discussion, presenting ideas to the class, questioning), and mathematical activity (such as justification, exploration, ...). We'd have grade conferences occasionally, some students more frequently when I was concerned they may fall short of their goal. At the end of the semester, each student would demonstrate their successes for the course, and justify their grade. I would provide my feedback & opinion. And then, record the grade on the scantron. Now as I meet these students again 10 years later, that is one of the most significant things they remember about me and the class. One student gave me work 8 years after the class, feeling as though he "cheated" (himself? me?).

    The process to grading so gets in the way of teaching that I refuse it.

  3. I am with you, Joe. By avoiding this important topic, how will you create positive change. Also, what would you be modelling to your students by not talking about something in which you are truly passionate?


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