What if We Eliminated Grades Completely?

What if We Eliminated Grades Completely?

Why the traditional grading system isn't as effective for actual learning.
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Mark Barnes, an international speaker and author of five educational books, is one of the biggest advocates of eliminating the traditional grading system of the classroom. He says in his highly popular blog, "Brilliant or Insane: Education on the Edge," that "grades are just a math game," and that "If you know how to work the numbers, you can get a good grade." Barnes goes on to say that we, as Americans, need to turn to what he calls, "Assessment 3.0," where we inspire learning by ridding classrooms of grade books.

But what would happen if we accepted Barnes's methods and completely abolished the traditional grading scale we've all come to know (and often hate)?

One teacher decided to try it out. Starr Sackstein decided after many monotonous years of teaching in the traditional manner, that many students didn't walk away recalling most of the information covered throughout the course of the year, and thus, had not truly learned very much at all. However, after eliminating grades from the "math" of assessments, Sackstein found most of her students wanted to learn just for the sake of learning! She said in Education Week:

I would review each student's work, summarize and explain what I had observed, and ask questions. "Did you consider doing it this way?" I might inquire. "What would it look like if you tried this instead?" Soon, students had these informative conversations with each other, as they grew into enthusiastic, independent learners, who never feared a bad grade, because there were no grades. They never asked for extra credit, because there was no credit; there were only learning opportunities. Learning for the sake of learning.

She found success among the students, but not so much in her district's mandated need for a grade for each student. So when it came time, she even let them grade themselves. While many might assume her students would all give themselves A's because that's what we've come to be taught. Sackstein said that she "was astonished by self-evaluation of young people. Some even said that they deserved failing grades, because they didn't work as hard as they could have. While I hated the idea of placing a label on my students, the discussions about what they had accomplished and what they wanted to improve upon were invaluable."

Ultimately, eliminating traditional grades strongly improved greater learning for Sackstein's class, affirming Barnes' claims. Many other teachers have since jumped on the bandwagon and have seen near-equal triumphs in the information students recalled after the class, their self-confidence levels, and their self-awareness in areas that needed improvement.

Grade anxiety is a growing condition that plagues many students across the United States, according to many studies, so maybe it's time to abolish traditional grading all together. In addition, students give up learning after a steady stream of bad grades, and grading may also lead to more issues such as cheating or other unethical behavior.

Maybe the reality is that switching to authentic feedback and assessments to discern better what each student needs to improve upon will finally heighten overall thirst for learning. Actually learning something in a classroom that you can recall and utilize in your future life? Sounds like an A+ in my book.

Cover Image Credit: http://s2.favim.com/orig/140410/bad-grade-cartoon-disney-channel-f-Favim.com-1641729.jpg

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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