“Is this for a grade?” and Other Acts of Academic Transgression

The disassociation regarding “why we grade assessments” vs. “should we have assessments” remains a strong thread in the education world today. In our school, this reflection has manifested in our professional learning conversations and is tearing the very fabric of how we do things. And I love it!

From Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets to Starr Sackstein’s Hacking Assessment, the idea that we put a stamp of approval/mastery on a child’s learning challenges the very essence of school. However, many would argue that a healthy amount of grades for families to review can develop a deeper conversation about current successes and/or future plans for academic development with each of your students.

This year I invite you to analyze the way you assess your students. I ask you to take the why and how of your assessments as a front seat passenger in this journey. Sackstein’s account of “going gradeless” in her classroom is enlightening and encouraging. While my instituation is not ready to go gradeless, there are paradigm shifts that do apply to this year’s academic introspective. Some things to think about:

  • How do you talk about assessments in your classroom? Do you or your students characterize things as “for a grade”?
  • Do your students focus on short-term or long-term goals for their learning? How can your formative/summative assessments highlight and reinforce these goals?

I hope to create a community that activity encourages students to focus on how they learn, not what they earn. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic and how it impacts your classrooms and your hallways.

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