Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Journey To Non-Grading Nirvana: An Introduction

Exactly one year ago I came to the conclusion that grading sucks. Actually, when I think about it I came to that conclusion at a much earlier time in my life, 2nd grade. But that is a story for another time.
When I first started teaching in a public school it was in a school where we didn't grade. we wrote narrative reports and we assessed students as to whether they were meeting standards, exceeding standards or needing more work. I just thought that was how it worked everywhere. Then I began teaching at a school that used percentages. All of a sudden it was all about the number and no longer about the work. How to raise that number ever so closer to 100%.
I started teaching at a school where the average grade was in the 90's. How could that be I asked myself? But after getting chewed out by parents who couldn't understand why little Johnny got an 85, I started getting the message.
So I stopped formally grading. I stopped reporting the hour by hour average in the school's online grade book that parents checked like it was their stock portfolio. I set up individual learning targets within the classroom and continued with the work we had always done.
Then a magical thing happened. All of a sudden it has felt like a great weight was lifted off our classroom. Conversations between myself and students were richer and more meaningful, students who had refused to try new things or take chances because of fear of poor grades began to make amazing things, students who refused to work at all began to make amazing things, I had so much more time and energy to focus on the students and on the work going on in the classroom when I took the parents out of the equation. Life was good again.
I have been meaning to reflect and think back upon this process and now I am going to make good on that promise to myself. Stay tuned.

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