School without Grades?
Why do we have grades? How often do teachers say the students don't care about an assignment unless they receive a grade? Are grades are for the students and their success or are they for the adults? Have you had parents call concerned about students grades but not student growth? How many students have dropped out of school because they will never be able to make the grade?
For learning to happen students have to be awake and engaged. Are grades the answer to getting and keeping my students engaged? Students will often ask is this a grade? The implied meaning being that if it is not graded, then the assignment or activity is not essential. When students are given a choice, they ask which option is the easiest? The hidden message: I will do the easier one not because I am lazy but because I want to ensure I get the best grade possible.
Many teachers engage in "gotcha you grading," pop quizzes to prove that students are not prepared, or trick questions. But why? I thought school was about learning, but the longer I am a teacher, the more I come to understand that school is about grades. Students beg for good grades (an A+ please) and teachers and parents pester students about grades (that should be an A+).
What do grades measure? The ability for students to memorize and follow instructions? Time management?
When students fail to make good grades, I hear adults say that student is _______ (insert negative adjective: lazy, careless, dumb, stupid).
I want to venture that it is not the student nor the fact that they are lazy, dumb, etc. but the supposition that grades motivate all students.
Maybe there is a better way to ensure that students come to class prepared. Could school work with grades? Or is the only way to engage with students by slapping a number in red pen on the paper?
Without grades what would teachers and students focus on? Some schools and schools districts are moving in that direction. At Brooklyn's Middle School 442, students and teachers are focused on ensuring students are mastering the material, there is no "C or a D for a lazily written term paper. There is no failing. The only goal is to learn the material, sooner or later."
As a teacher, I want to ensure that I can help every student I teacher to grow as a student and to meet every milestone. I hope that the field of education one day gets to a place where the importance is placed not on the grade but on the student and their learning.
A teacher from the United States of America, currently teaching abroad. I teach science to middle and high school students. I enjoy reading and doing nerd things.