Why there shouldn’t be grades

A recent conversation with a former student, reminiscing about high school.

Student: I was always happy to get my A on my work.

Me: That’s why there shouldn’t be any grades…

Student: When I work hard to complete an assignment, I want a teacher to give her stamp of approval that I learned something.

Me: Why do you need a teacher to tell you that you learned something?

Student: So I can know that I learned it well.

Me: What does it mean to have learned something well? Did you feel satisfied with what you’d learned in doing the assignment or were you just doing it to please the teacher?

Student: I don’t know… Anyway we need grades for college so we can show that we learned stuff in high school.

Me: You don’t need grades to apply to college. You just need to be able to show that you know stuff. Think about what we do in computer science — No one asks you what grades you got in your CS courses. They just want to see what you’ve built. If you’ve built awesome stuff, then they’ll talk to you. Same with colleges.

Student: I don’t know… It worked for me. I’m in college.

Me: Open your mind. Learning should be for you.