Going Gradeless: More Questions than Answers

Lisa Biber
Nov 18, 2019 · 2 min read

This year, I pledged to go gradeless.

Yet November crept up on me, and I found myself entering quarter grades in the gradebook.

So I took a moment to reflect on my journey these past nine weeks.

First off: I was recruited for a standards-based grading pilot group. So that threw a wrench in my plans. Now, instead of immersing myself in strategies and research that would help shift my culture from grades to learning, I found myself researching how to explain the new scale to my students in a way that wasn’t so scary.

So I spent most of September talking kids off ledges because a two out of three in the gradebook looks like a D. (Thanks, Skyward.)

And now that quarter grades were due this week, I find myself backsliding into old practices.

I hate points. What is a point, anyway?

I hate grades. What does a grade mean? What does it mean to have a “B” performance? What’s the difference between an 82 and an 85? I don’t get it.

But these are the things to which the students hold. They’re comfortable. They are happy with their little letters. They don’t know what assessment means, much less reassessment. They know class rank, they know valedictorian.

And here I am throwing more words at them than they know what to do with.

I have known the work that was before me for a long time, but I’ve finally come face-to-face with it.

How do I change a culture?

See, what I’m struggling with is I work in a system where the culture has trained my students to seek points and grades as an indicator of learning. I’m struggling with changing the perception of feedback. I’m struggling to show the students that learning is ongoing, and sometimes difficult, and sometimes slow, and that all of this is okay.

So here I am, feeling like standard-based grading is yet another way to sort students with meaningless numbers, and spending more time discussing points, grades, and percentages than learning.

How do I undo so many years of this way of thinking?

I have more questions than answers.

GMWP: Greater Madison Writing Project

Teacher as Artist, Teacher as Researcher, Teacher as Writer, Teacher as Teacher of Writing

Lisa Biber

Written by

Mama. Teacher. Writer. Yogi. Hufflepuff. Wanderer. Empath.

GMWP: Greater Madison Writing Project

Teacher as Artist, Teacher as Researcher, Teacher as Writer, Teacher as Teacher of Writing

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