What Good Are Grades?

Joe Bower, a teacher in Canada,  is trying to shake things up, and I appreciate it. He is trying to show us that educating children is not a contest, it's a duty. And it's our duty to do it right, without making the students miserable and narrow and competitive. Joe want kids to find intrinsic motivation to learn. I agree.

He is against grades.  He is against homework.

Here is his latest:

Secondly, the issue here isn't that we are not sorting children well enough. Rather it is that we spend any time at all sorting them in the first place when we could be using our time and effort to help them improve. Ranking and sorting, bickering over grade inflation and rigid criteria and higher standards does nothing to help children become better people. Kohn puts it quite succinctly:
What grades offer is spurious precision, a subjective rating masquerading as an objective assessment.
Thirdly, reducing something as messy as real learning to a symbol, letter or number provides little to no useful information. It simply can't tell a kid what they have done or how they could get better. Studies have shown that grades are a pathetic way to provide students with feedback. Period.

Like so many things in life, we have become distracted. We have been distracted by grades, honor rolls, achievement, winning, losing, test scores, data... and the list goes on and on.

Let's refocus.

Assessment can be simplified into two steps.
  1. Gather
  2. Share
At first this may sound overly simplistic and rather benign, but here's the catch. You never need to use tests to gather, nor do you need grades to share.


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