Why Don't We Give Grades?

Imaging that each day you went to work you were given new responsibilities and then your boss came over and showed you everything you didn't get right. You'd quit! Imagine now that you are a kid and everyday you are given new tasks and were constantly judged by your shortcomings. Grading papers is a daily practice in most schools. It puts a lot of pressure on kids and makes thm feel unsafe to try new things, especially when the tasks feel hard.

Now instead, imagine being at work and your boss showing you how to do something new and then coming by to tell you everything you are doing great and help you with parts that you need a little more support in. Instead, imaging you are a kid and your teacher takes a look at your project or paper and lets you know that you are doing great with many things and then you work together to fix up problem areas.

Both of these options allow the person to have feedback into their task, but if we want motivated, engaged learners, the second will suceed more often. As we work with kids we don't drag out the red pen to put X marks on what they get wrong, we look for ways to engage children or provide support in another learning style. Daily practice with out graded papers opens a student up for trying, even when it is hard, as there are no negative consequences.

As our parents don't get grades, we aren't forced to contrive daily work or homework assignments to meet a minimum number of grades in a gradebook.

So how do we know what to teach and if a kid "gets it?" First of all, in small classes, our teachers interact with the handful of kids with them, not the twenty plus that they try to interact with when they can. We also use growth-based data in reading to document progression and pre and post tests in math to show mastery at different grade levels with their standards. And finally, we document mastery of our standards throughout the year. At the end of the academic year, parents have data available that includes a spreadsheet of standards across many grade levels (as kids can be working at differnt grade levels in different learning strands) and subjects, tests, running records, checklists of skills, work samples and more to make up a portfolio demenstrating achievment. These documents provide a vast display of understanding. After all, if a kid brings home a B in a subject, do you even know what they learned?

For kids, think of the trend of saying, "You haven't got that YET!" In this case it is true. They know what standards they mastered and what is YET to come for them. There is no one saying that they earned an X with that red pen today. They are just are given another opportunity or strategy to use to reach mastery. We think this is a great way to help children become self-motivated, life-long learners.!

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