Thursday, February 11, 2010

Let's just get rid of grades...

Two great articles for this week!

"Grading: The Issue Is Not How but Why"
I am fairly confident that, like several other schools in the metro, our district will adopt the live grade book. Every time a teacher enters a grade a parent will receive some kind of notice, and he or she can check the status of a student. This step seems to be contrary to what Kohn and supporting research suggests: "Only by abandoning traditional grading and performance assessment practices can we achieve our ultimate educational objectives." In fact Kohn points out that grades can squash creativity and increase fear of failure. I thought we are part of the "creative age," where young people are expected to come up with creative solutions to problems they did not create but will ultimately have to pay for during their lives. Schools seem to be emphasizing grades more than progress, understanding, and student desire.

What alternative do we have to grades? I readily admit that I am cynical of colleges such as Evergreen that have chucked the traditional grading system. How on earth is there time to write comments for every student? How can student performance be measured by outside interests, such as potential graduate schools? The few schools that are abandoning grades are facing a gigantic monster that is grades. Does that make sense? Grades are traditional. Grades are safe.

I am curious to see what would happen if a teacher decided to not put a letter or number grade on anything for a quarter. Instead, assessment would be done during conferences with the students and by written response sans a grade only. At the end of the quarter some kind of grade would have to be given to satisfy... everyone. There would be the pass or fail option as well, but would that be detrimental to a student's transcript? I don't know. Would colleges take the time to read the teacher commentary? It seems a post-secondary school would learn much more about a student this way. Would the administration of a high school support this experiment? Would a teacher loose her mind trying to find time to do this? Grades are easier, it seems.

Maybe I should try this next fall...

1 comment:

  1. What would happen if you spent the quarter writing and revising and conferencing and commenting and then asked the students to grade themselves? I suspect they will have internalized your standards and values (given that they have been conforming to teacher expectations for years) and for the most part, will be honest. And, if you honestly felt they didn't deserve the grade they gave themselves, conference to explain your reasoning.

    Wonder if the administration would let you try this out?