Last night, during our weekly #edchat, participants discussed whether or not the traditional system of grading (A, B, C, etc) should be abolished for something else. What was so great about this conversation was that it was decisive. There were people who were clearly on one side or the other, which made for a great discussion.
Here is just a little of what was said:
- Most current grading methods do not support the goals of standards-based learning. To change the grading practices will require LOTS of communication with all the stakeholders. We will have to turn a ship that been sailing for a lot of years.
- I feel we need to evaluate the whole learner in their acquired knowledge, critical thinking skills, application of knowledge etc. If there was a way to adopt a system of standards that an entire nation/world could use - IDEAL! BUT, not likely as there are so many opinions on education and learning. Until then, each of us must do our best to create a system of assessment in our classrooms, districts that addresses the needs of each student on a daily basis.
- I feel that there should be a combination of the traditional grading system along with other assessments. Unfortunately the current grading system is too entrenched and it would take a very strong effort to overturn or change it. Too many colleges & universities weigh their admissions on grades and test scores. It is sad that a lot of creativity is prevented in classrooms because of the pressure to produce on standardized tests.
- Honestly, I'm not sure how to replace grading. Sometimes I think it's not necessarily the grading but the assessments that are the issue. Our school is experimenting a lot more with formative assessment, but already some folks are getting push back from parents. There is such an entrenched system from K-college and beyond...levels dependent upon levels that will be very difficult to change, but I believe we can. Education has become about grades instead of learning, which means a change is necessary. Movement toward more formative assessment methods is a start.
- This is a debate that will continue long after we are gone. It may be that we should appreciate the looseness of the grading situation since it allows us a lot of flexibility.
- It should be supplemented with other ways of showing your accomplishments. Don't see how you can completely get rid of grading when standardized exams are used to demonstrate competencies in fields like medicine, law etc.
- Will somebody please tell me the functional difference between an 80, a 76, AND A 74?
There were a couple of themes that we talked about. One, not mentioned above is the problem with student/parent motivation. How many of you know a parent who "bribes" their child with offers of payment for good grades either in the form of money or goods? So instead of the students reward being their education, the reward is a trip to the ATM. Perhaps it is just easier to say to the child, do this work on your own and I as the parent will pay you off so I feel better about myself as a parent because you got good grades. And what happens when the student does not return good grades? Most times they are punished. So instead of figuring out why they failed they are just labeled a failure and told to do better next time so you can earn the cash.
The modern/traditional grading system is so entrenched in the minds of our parents that the thought of doing anything different brings angry questions. One participant last night said they attempted to introduce more performance based, authentic assessments with no grades, just proficient or not, and the parents wanted to know why their child did not get an A. Why did it have to be "proficient?" If we are going to change grading we, as parents, have to change the way we think about how our students are learning.
The other discussion I noticed was the inconsistencies in grading. The last bullet in the above list makes a great point. What is the difference between a 74 or 75? Is the A a student gets in other class the same as an A in my class? If there was ever a reason to move away from traditional grading it is this. A student can work so hard in one class and only get a C and can go to their next class, work equally as hard and get an A. Yet when another school or college/university looks at those grades they assume that, because of the C they must be lacking in knowledge or ability.
We need to move to a more performance-based/portfolio based system of assessment. Students are so different. They act differently, they have different backgrounds and homes and they learn differently. Yet we continue to compare them as all the same using the grading methods we have now. Instead, lets look at individual students and differentiate our teaching and their learning. These students are producers. Let them produce and show what they know and how they know it. And instead of saying Johny you get an A but Billy you get a B for the same work, lets just say, yep you got it or nope you didn't. And if you didn't lets figure out why.
What do you think. Is the system of grading we have in place now good for students and education in general. Is it working? If so, what are the benefits? If not, what needs to happen?
Image from Flickr Creative Commons. View the original here.