Will You Live to See the No-Grades Classroom?

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Far too many of education’s most important stakeholders can’t see the no-grades classroom. Some people have envisioned this beautiful place, where learning is a conversation, bereft of haphazard attempts to measure learning with numbers, percentages, and letters.

Will these dedicated reformers live to see the no-grades classroom? Or will they, like women’s rights leader Susan B. Anthony, die long before their dream becomes reality? In case you are unfamiliar with the reference, here is an excerpt from Assessment 3.0 (Corwin, 2015) about the amazing suffragette, pictured above.

Ninety-three years after the first presidential election ended in 1779, Susan B. Anthony, arguably the world’s most popular suffragette, became the first woman to vote outside of the Wyoming territories in a formal election. She was subsequently arrested and convicted for breaking the law that precluded women from voting. In 1920, more than 14 decades after Anthony’s bold move and that first presidential election, congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and women were finally permitted to vote. Sadly, America’s most famous female voter died 14 years before this historic event. Without the extraordinary efforts of Susan B. Anthony and other suffragettes, who battled oppression for centuries, it’s conceivable that women might still be waiting for the right to vote. While it may seem like a farfetched analogy, I believe that the no-grades classroom is, as voting once was to the suffragettes, an unrealized dream that is in desperate need of its own champions.

The champions of the no-grades classroom do exist. Like the suffragettes, they are part of many grassroots movements around the world. They carry on amazing conversations about learning with students; in many cases, these conversations are built on four simple words.

These champions stand tall against the oppression of traditional methods and the empty cry of accountability and standardization, and they trumpet the benefits of throwing out traditional grades.  Champions of the no-grades classroom, like Susan B. Anthony and the other suffragettes, will revolutionize education, and they will change the world.

Decades after the Nineteenth Amendment passed, very few people would admit to opposing it. It was an idea whose time had come. Like women’s rights, the no-grades classroom is an idea whose time has come, and in the near future, you’ll be hard pressed to find a single person who will admit to opposing it.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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