Rethinking Grades

Distance learning is over, and I don’t know about you, but I’m finally able to take a deep breath and reflect on the most unique three months of my 18-year teaching career. Yes, it was tough, but I learned a lot.

In my previous post, I shared my thoughts about the right kind of feedback our students need in order to be successful students. The kind that leads to learning, not compliance.

Growth over numbers.

Over the past three months, it was my conversations with kids that fostered learning and growth, not any numerical grade I gave them. My students didn’t even see a numerical grade until they wrote me a letter in June to argue for their final average. When I looked back at my notes, I saw real, helpful data proving my students learned a lot about reading and writing, as well as themselves as learners. No number could have shown me, or them, that. I knew then that I couldn’t go back to a traditional grading method.

My notes while reading the end of Sarah M. Zerwin’s book.

So, I continued reading. Learning. I searched for proof that not only were points no longer needed, but my students were more successful without them. After finding and finishing Sarah M. Zerwin’s book, Point-less: An English Teacher’s Guide to More Meaningful Grading, I had all the information necessary to prove why this change was essential.

What does going pointless, or gradeless, actually look like? To me, it’s a student-centered, feedback-driven classroom. Students read, write, revise, and reflect often. They take risks, for a number is not attached. Teachers serve as a model and coach, not an authority figure. Conferences are a regular occurrence. Open communication is visible in the school grade book where teachers, parents, students, administrators, and counselors can see written feedback. In other words, it’s everything children need to learn and grow.

So, will a change like this be possible? I’m going to argue yes. It must. When it comes to education, our country has been obsessed with the wrong kind of data for far too long. Our country’s grading system is an archaic one of oppression that needs to go. Teachers, it’s time to speak up and change that. It’s time to obsess over learning and growth, and going pointless will allow for that.

For more information about going pointless, start by checking out these sources:

  • Point-less: An English Teacher’s Guide to More Meaningful Grading by Sarah M. Zerwin
  • Reimagining Writing Assessment and Rethinking Rubrics by Maja Wilson
  • The Schools Our Children Deserve and other books and essays by Alfie Kohn
  • Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School by Starr Sackstein

Sarah Krajewski teaches 9th and 12th grade English and Journalism near Buffalo, New York.  She just finished her 18th year of teaching, and hopes to get back to her classroom in September.  You can follow Sarah on Twitter @shkrajewski and her blog can be viewed at http://skrajewski.wordpress.com/.

One thought on “Rethinking Grades

  1. Joy Kirr June 28, 2020 at 7:10 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing, Sarah! I added your review to the Feedback in Lieu of Grades LiveBinder here: https://www.livebinders.com/play/play/1693716?tabid=3b63ee90-6214-2146-f4a0-541d5e13d892

    It’s been on my list, but I haven’t yet read it because I AM going without points in my 7th grade English classes (for five years now?). I need to get stronger at helping my students set goals and reflecting, though, for sure. Here’s how I currently do go w/o grades: http://scholarsrm239.weebly.com/grading-philosophy.html

    Liked by 1 person

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