Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Protecting My Children from Grading

Yesterday, Joe Bower put up a post on his blog entitled "Opting out of Grading" in which he listed his reasons for requesting of his child's future teachers that her "learning would never be reduced to a symbol." Here is the letter that he posted that he intends to give to his daughter's teachers:
Dear teacher, 
Kayley loves to learn and is very excited to start school this year.  
Because the case against grades has a wealth of anecdotal evidence and scientific research, I am requesting that Kayley's assessments and evaluations only include formative comments. This means that Kayley's learning would never be reduced to a symbol (such as a number or letter). This includes individual assignments, quizzes, tests and her report card.
As a family that plays an active role in Kayley's learning, the best feedback we can receive about Kayley's learning is to see her learning. No reductionist data is required.
 If you are interested in learning more about the case against grades, I would be happy to provide you with these resources, and if your school's assessment and reporting policies make this request problematic, I would like the opportunity to discuss this further. Feel free to e-mail me at joe.bower.teacher@gmail.com
I look forward to working with you to support Kayley's natural intrinsic desire to go on learning. 
Joe Bower
I've admired Joe's position and research on the harm that we do to students with our "assessment" and grading procedures.  I also can very much relate to the uneasy feeling that comes from worrying about your children having the intreage, wonder, and creativity educated out of them by our school system.  I worry about that for my own children often.  It's one of the reasons that I've started my 3rd grade daughter blogging about things she finds interesting.  She's a smart girl and gets very good grades, but I'm hoping to promote a love of learning for learning's sake instead of for the praise that comes from teachers and parents for getting an "A".  I've seen her creativity decrease as her desire to achieve good grades has increased. 

I love the idea of abolishing grading in my classroom.  I hate the fact that I have to reduce my students to a number on tests and report cards, and I clearly see how much more they benefit from meaningful feedback.  I love the idea of opting my children out of the grading system in our schools.  I haven't done either yet, although I give it much thought.

Kudos to Joe for having the moxy to do away with grades and having a plan for his own child.  I have great admiration for the way he follows his convictions and shares with the rest of us through his blog and his twitter feed.


  1. This would take a huge paradigm shift in our society in order to remove grades from schools in general. College transcripts, ACT and SAT testing, not to mention the dreaded NCLB, all require grades or scores of some sort.
    A shift to a more holistic evaluation system - or no system at all - it sounds idealistic.
    I say let's go for it.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Michael.