However, I am aware that not all teachers are fortunate enough to be trusted to be a professional. Many teachers are prisoners to external prescription and standardization. I am not ignorant to the challenges many teachers would face if they were to attempt to abolish grading. Here is but a small list of obstacles:
- School districts mandate the use of on-line report cards along with a prescribed number of grades that must be updated on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
- Departments in schools often mandate a kind of school-based standardization requiring teachers to have a set number of graded assignments or exams.
- Provinces or states mandate high-stakes standardized tests to be a part of the students' grade.
- Most parents only ever experienced an education with grading, so they assume to understand what grades mean. For some parents, the absence of grading might lead them to assume there is an absence of learning.
- Teachers who are compelled to teach far too many students in a day, week, semester or year resort to reducing children to grades because they can't feasibly assess any other way.
The obstacles for abolishing grading are as abundant as they are real.
When I talk to teachers about the idea of abolishing grading, they typically provide two reactions. Firstly, they (for the most part) agree that the pitfalls of grading are prevalent; however, they are quick to list off all the reason why nothing can be done about it.
So what is to be done?
What would you think of a teacher or parent who reconciles to the reality that nothing can really be done about bullying?
It wasn't that long ago that some parents or teachers saw bullying as "boys being boys" as if bullying was this rite of passage. Today, our society has taken quite a different take on bullying.
So what happened? How did we progressive from such apathy to action?
I won't profess to know the answer, but I bet it has something to do with the fact that we started to openly and actively ask provocative questions about bullying. Rather than framing the reality of bullying as something we must resign ourselves to, we started to see it as a problem to be solved.
It's time we did the same for grading - and I suggest we start with the bulleted list above.