Thursday, April 3, 2014

Success -- it's not always what you see

Four years ago I wrote a post titled What leads to success? I took an old TEDtalk and explained how testsandgrades do not lead to success.

When I came across this graphic on Twitter via Greg Miller, I have a couple questions:

Students. Have you ever worked really hard and learned a lot about something and received a low grade? Have you ever slacked off and learned almost nothing but received a high grade?

Parents. Can you think of someone you went to school with, and you knew they were really smart, but they always received low grades? Can you think of someone who received really high grades but you knew they were a dolt and that they had, at best, a superficial understanding?

Teachers. Can you think of a student who you knew to be a critical and creative thinker but often scored low on standardized tests? Can you think of a student who you knew to be quite a shallow and superficial thinker, but often scored high?

When I ask these questions to students, parents and teachers, I often get a lot of head nodding. People seem to understand the point.

Testsandgrades are broken. 

They don't tell us what we think they tell to us and they distract us from learning.

For an authentic alternative to testsandgrades, check out my chapter Reduced to Numbers: from concealing to revealing learning.


  1. I have done a lot of reading on teaching without grades, and this is most clear and thought provoking article yet! Well done

  2. I really loved the graphic you coupled with your article. Although sometimes we think that what we are teaching has no effect, children's roots can run deep and don't always manifest in the normative way. I have a lot of quiet students in my class that look like they don't know what's going on, but I see them apply their learning in unconventional ways. Thank you for sharing!


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