Is the college tail wagging the K-12 dog?

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While presenting to a diverse group of K-12 educators at Penn University, a stimulating debate ensued, after I said that teachers need to stop traditional grading. “What about GPAs,” one attendee asked. “The colleges use GPAs for admission.”


I responded with a question of my own: “Do we have to keep giving students grades, just so colleges can have GPAs to measure student success?” There was a rather long silence, as the thought resonated around the room.

I strolled from one table to the next, listening to educators discuss grades, and one attendee suggested that much of what we do in the K-12 world is based on what colleges demand. “It’s sort of like the tail wagging the dog,” she said.

If post-secondary institutions are the tail and K-12 schools are the dog, isn’t it time for the dog to wag its own tail?

If teachers eliminate traditional grading, won’t colleges have to devise a better way to evaluate students?

And wouldn’t that change everything?

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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