Overcoming the weekly grades mandate

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First in a series on strategies for eliminating traditional grades

After promising to do all I can to eliminate traditional grades in schools this year, supporters have surfaced here, on Twitter, Google+ and other social networks. One issue that continues to crop up is with people who want to stop grading but say their administrators mandate weekly grades.

Administrative mandates like the one Allison mentions in her tweet are exactly the sort of misguided approaches to assessment that inhibit learning. Typically, they exist only to placate parents, who see the grades as a measurement of weekly progress — another fallacy.

Use two-pronged approach to solving this problem

One: begin a conversation with upper administrators about why weekly grades hinder teaching and learning. Explain that you want to eliminate grading your students with numbers and letters, because these false measurements do not provide effective feedback to all stakeholders.

Instead of weekly grades, come up with an alternative that will satisfy administrators. Some sort of narrative feedback — even brief comments about progress — should suffice.

Two: If administrators are slow to react to your suggestions (sometimes congress moves faster than education), at the very minimum, bring students into the conversation about weekly grades.

If a number or letter measurement has to be uploaded into an electronic grade book, why not allow your students to decide on the grade. They will be very good at it, if they are coached properly on self-evaluation.

At least this is a start.

Read the second post in this series here. Meanwhile, please keep the conversation going.

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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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