The practice of teachers assigning students letter or number grades to illustrate how students are performing is an outmoded method, left over the times when schools were regarded as factories, teachers were supervisors, and students were workers. Not only is grading just outdated, research has shown that grading students is damaging as well. Research has shown that grades can:
- Cause students to regard learning as a chore
- Avoid challenging tasks
- Think less deeply
- Fall apart when they fail, and
- To value ability more than effort.
In today’s society the process is as important as the outcome; schools should reflect that.
“The students, motivated/rewarded (or not) by grades, try to shape their writing so as to get a better grade, and that may become their primary goal in some cases. In turn, the teachers feel grading forces them to give up some of their role as “fair-minded judges and sympathetic readers.” – Lotto and Smith in College Education.
Ways Youth Can Change the World Without Grades
Teaching Classes — One of the best ways young people can learn is through teaching. Young people of all ages can teach people younger than themselves, the same age and older than themselves.
Reforming Schools — Becoming actively engaged as partners in school reform at the local, district, state and federal levels can allow students to advocate against grades in powerful, effective ways.
Youth as Education Advocates — If youth stand against grades, they should make student voice heard to education decision-makers everywhere. Providing substantive alternatives and stepping into action are priorities.
Tools Youth Need to Change the World Without Grades
Inspiration — Children and youth need stories to motivate them against grades, while teachers and school leaders need the vision to eliminate them.
Education — Leaving the traditional grade structure of schools can be challenging, but with education and training in alternative scoring teachers and students can become committed to not relying on these false measures of academic success.
Youth/Adult Partnerships — Working in classrooms, across schools and throughout the education system can be a key to eliminate grading forever. Fostering and sustaining substantial youth/adult partnerships throughout the education system can be a powerful way to do that.
- Adultism in Schools on the SoundOut website
- The following schools are models of successful learning without grades and grading.
- Metropolitan Learning Center (District Website) (School Website) – Portland, Oregon.
- Poughkeepsie Day School – Poughkeepsie, New York
- Waring School – Beverly, Massachusetts
- Carolina Friends School – Durham, North Carolina
- Nova Project High School – Seattle, Washington
- Saint Ann’s School – Brooklyn Heights, New York
- “Alternatives to Traditional Grading” – A summary of different practices from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning at Kansas State University.
- “Grading Alternatives” – From the Indiana Department of Education.
- SoundOut Student Activism Map – Find out where students are organizing to challenge schools to listen to student voice and engage students as partners in school improvement. Includes examples and organizations from across the US.
- Rise Against Terrible Schools – While there are many different ideas on how schools should work, we share one common goal: changing schools for the better. Whether that means getting students to unschool or homeschool or just simply campaigning for some rights of students in schools, the goal of RATS is to students work together so they can be more effective.
- Students Against Testing – Students Against Testing was created to be a strong force against the score-obsessed education machine known as standardized testing. At the same time, SAT also exists as an advocate for bringing positive, creative and real-life learning activities into the schools. SAT believes that for the reasons stated below urgent action from the student body itself is the most direct way to counteract the boredom and petty competition that currently plagues the schools.
- Alternative Education Resource Organization – AERO advances learner-centered approaches to education. AERO is considered by many to be the primary hub of communications and support for educational alternatives around the world.
- Alternatives to Grading Student Writing from the National Council of Teachers of English.
- “From Degrading to De-grading” by Alfie Kohn in High School Magazine.
- “Schools take first step in eliminating grades” from the Buffalo (NY) News, on the National Alliance Of State Science And Mathematics Coalitions website.
- “For the Sheer Joy of Learning” by Linn McBrien on the Family Education website.
- “The Costs of Overemphasizing Achievement” by Alfie Kohn in School Administrator. This article (and this author) is completely committed to eliminating grades. The author is a widely regarded researcher who has written extensively about the dilemmas of “Rewards and Punishments” (the title of one of his many books) in schools.
- “Bibliography Reviews Grading Practices” – A great summary of literature about grading in the form of a short summary of a large bibliography about grading.
Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support eliminating classroom grades in your school or community, contact us.
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