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 Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books and other series that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 150,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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