Is Throwing out grades just a Flash in the Pan?


 I have been thinking a lot about the movement Teachers Throwing Out Grades. There is even a group dedicated to the topic with a Facebook page and a weekly Twitter chat #TTOG. My inner voice says this is right, but the 20+ year teacher in me says that society and higher education aren’t ready for it yet.

So many questions come to mind. On what should we base student achievement? Should we test or quiz? How do we quantify ideas, creativity, imagination, mastery? Do we really want kids to be masters of content or well rounded generalists? 

I’m not against this movement, because, my inner voice says it’s right. I would like to see how we can get from where we are to the point of throwing out grades. I imagine that if I were to throw out grades, that I would get a lot of push back. I have thought about grading against standards, but that seems like a stopgap measure at best. How do I assess what students know and how do I orchestrate that learning? 

Is it simply enough that my students know how to learn, get excited for learning, and can teach others the strategies that work for them? Add to that the things that are important to me as a parent; getting along with others, following directions, leading, is kind, helps others, and taking on appropriate challenges.

It’s definitely a lot to think about and it causes a lot of cognitive dissonance. I rack my brain and just can’t bridge the gap between where we are in education and where we are going in education. Could it be that there is such exponential change that I can’t think fast enough to keep up? Whatever it is I really wish I had a little more clarity on the topic of throwing out grades.


2 comments on “Is Throwing out grades just a Flash in the Pan?

  1. Tim, time to read ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes. I’m on his second one now about grades – Assessment 3.0. I’m not going to try throwing out grades, but I AM going to try having my students grade themselves. Paul Solarz basically does that in 5th grade (in my own district, so it should get approved), and I met another teacher at an EdCamp that does this with her AP Literature class!! If I call it a “pilot,” so be it. But I’d love to see how 7th graders can reflect and give themselves a grade every quarter…….. This is my second year thinking about it – it’s time for me to ACT. Even if I have to start with something small. I currently have students grade themselves on their two-week independent reading goals. I’m seeing some lying now that we’re into fourth quarter, so I’ll have to figure out a way students can PROVE to me that they’re doing the work and learning…. Thinking thinking thinking…. I think parents will be the most difficult to convince, and I think it will mean a LOT more work on my part, but I’ve got to try something different than what I’m currently doing. Thanks for writing about it – now I need to go back and watch read my Rick Wormeli notes!

    • Thanks for such a quick reply. I have been delaying reading the books you mention above because I know I would have to act no. I just have a lot of irons in the fire right now that I have to look forward to doing it next year. I will definitely add role reversal to my summer reading list. Maybe we need to write a book in order to process through the details?

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