Grading in the 21st Century

“Life is an error-making and an error-correcting process, and nature in marking man’s papers will grade him for wisdom as measured both by survival and by the quality of life of those who survive.” by Jonas Salk

Tonight’s #21stedchat (Sundays @ 8:00 EST) topic is Grades and Grading in the 21st century. I have many mixed feelings about this topic and though through a reflection, I might be able to have more clarity of how I really feel. I know this is something that I can not change as it is based on the district and state policies but it is still worth thinking about as grading is always a ‘hot topic’ and it’s important to have an open mind.

My first thoughts are, I don’t think we should grade elementary school student’s. In elementary school we as educators are trying to build the foundation of skills so the students master reading and basic math. I think grades in elementary school turn off many students causing them low or no self confidences and is the start of ‘hating school’.

I think standards-based education is what our students need. Students require ongoing teaching and learning where each student can demonstrate mastery in Common Core standards. Using standard benchmark concepts and skills, will provide an alignment among classrooms and schools yet take away the added pressure of grades.

If we eliminated grades we could focus on true learning. Teaching and learning is a cycle that should measures student achievement through a variety of formats and assessments along with ensuring multiple opportunities for students to learn until they reach mastery. I think that students should be able to retake assessments until they show mastery. I understand some educators concerns that it is not ‘fair’ because those students that worked hard the first time, should not be ‘penalized’ but isn’t mastery what learning is all about and isn’t that what we want for all students? I heard a great quote recently, “Fair doesn’t necessarily mean equal” which fits this situation perfectly.

Portfolios, I am a huge fan of student portfolios and student goals. I think all students should have a portfolio and work at their speed. Growth is what we want to see in students, portfolios are a great way of doing this. Having student lead conferences are a great way to show their growth and lets the student take ownership of their own learning which is what we want to build within students.  Portfolios can have assessments within such as performance tasks or PBL, which can be ‘graded’ or can show mastery based on a rubric.

With all this grading talk we must talk about rubrics. Again, I have mixed feelings on rubrics. I like rubrics, I think they are a great way to grade fairly and set expectations. However, I think rubrics also stunt creativity sometimes and hinder students because they either know what they have to do to get by or they don’t think ‘out of the box’ because it is not in the rubric. I have come to the conclusion that like anything you need to have a good balance which is why sometimes I use rubrics and sometimes I don’t.

I think 21st century skills such as critically thinking, communicating, collaborating and creating can all be  assessed multiple ways no matter if you are using a grading system or not.

As you can see I have mixed feelings and am excited to learn tonight from others around the  world. If you can’t make the chat or missed it, I still would love to hear your thoughts.

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Comments on: "Grading in the 21st Century" (5)

  1. Looks like I’m missing tonight’s chat as I write this… I, too, have mixed feelings. I’m writing a comment, though, to tell you of the book I’m currently reading (our entire staff at the middle school is reading it, actually). The name is FAIR ISN’T ALWAYS EQUAL, and it’s by Rick Wormeli. I saw your paraphrased quote and thought you’d like to know!

    I hope the chat went well – I’ll have to catch the archives. Will you create a follow-up post to continue your reflection?

    Thanks,
    Joy

  2. I also have mixed feelings about grading too at the K-5 level. If we do assign grades, I like A/B or Not Yet! As a high school physics teacher, I tried to explain to my students the differences between grading and assessing student work. Grades are just that — A, B, C etc. given at regular intervals to indicate students’ levels of performance on tests and/or classwork. When students complained that grades were not fair, my standard response was life is not always fair, but fair is not the best word to use in the classroom. A better word is “reasonable”. As a teacher I need to have reasons to justify students’ grades, whether it’s a rubric or other evidence of student work. Assessing student work, especially formative assessments, is the most important thing I do as a teacher to help my students grow. Formative assessments do not involve any grades; they are just a means for students to demonstrate what they know, or do not know, about the particular concept or skill being assessed.

  3. What a great article – it gives all of us an opportunity to think through our current systems. As a piano teacher and a Music Theory Online teacher my students frequently I participate in national standard testing. While I don’t “teach to the test” it’s a great way of ensuring a national standard in piano and theory levels.

  4. Great post, really powerful and inspiring! I really like the idea of having the primary grades focusing on skills rather than grades because I heartily agree that that is where a lot of kids get turned off of school.

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