5 Steps to Eliminate Traditional Grades

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During a  brief summer holiday, I decided to repost a few of our popular posts from 2013. This one on 5 steps to eliminate grades was quite popular and kicked off an entire series on grades.

via: navigatingbyjoy.com

As 2014 approaches, it’s time for teachers to commit to the kind of change that will truly transform education. The easiest place to start is with assessment.

The fix? Eliminate traditional grades.

When I speak at schools and conferences, most teachers I encounter love the idea of eliminating grades, especially when they see a viable alternative, like SE2R feedback.

What attracts educators to the SE2R model is the idea that students are redirected to prior learning, when they have not mastered a concept. Then, they are given the opportunity to resubmit their work for further evaluation and feedback. This process leads to mastery learning.

What discourages teachers from using meaningful narrative feedback over number and letter grades is fear of backlash from parents, administrators and college admissions boards.

5-step blueprint for success

  1. Realize that you are accountable first, and foremost, to students. We owe students the best chance to learn, regardless of any mandates we receive from bureaucrats.
  2. Tell parents exactly why you want to stop grading their children. When you explain that you want to provide detailed feedback on all activities and give kids a chance for real mastery learning, how can parents argue?
  3. Team up with principals. Approach the principal with details about your plan to eliminate number and letter grades. Outline the benefits of meaningful narrative feedback. Emphasize that the SE2R model leads to mastery learning. Invite her to review the feedback and the results.
  4. Bring students into the report card conversation. If your district mandates report cards, sit down with your students at the end of each marking period and discuss the grade. Talk about what work was completed and what skills were acquired over time. How did students handle your feedback? Then, simply ask them to grade themselves. You’ll be amazed at the results.
  5. Share your success with district and community leaders. The best way to turn this into a movement that will forever change education is to share the results of feedback over grades with the people who have the power to influence widespread change.
The only way to spark real change is to act. Sweep away your fears and use this blueprint. Stop grading your students, and witness the thrill of independent learning.
Learn more about eliminating grades in Mark's new book
Assessment 3.0: How to Throw Out Your Grade Book and Revolutionize Learning (Corwin, 2015)
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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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