No Grading, No Testing

  • Grading is social violence perpetuated on kids
  • Grading backfires and actually decreases learning
  • Grading is unnecessary and turns teachers into cops
  • Grading doesn't allow students to try and fail without penalty
  • Vocational placement can be handled without grading and older students can choose when to be graded or tested, homeschoolers have pioneered this method and it works
Schools would work better without letter grading and grade level. Schools that are voluntary learning resource centers should be able to group and regroup students dynamically, as homeschoolers often do, and this should enable monetary savings and allow far greater student-to-student sharing and teaching.

Assigning letter grades to schoolwork and to students is a form of social violence and is counter-productive and unnecessary. Ongoing evaluations and discussions should be shared with parents and students on an ongoing basis to see what skills and tools they want or desire to have.

Parents as true partners will be bringing questions and solutions to bear. This approach would mean a large increase in the number of people working as counselors and coordinators within schools. But if parents were active partners, many hardships could be shared and creative solutions found. Like this one where parents have donated labor and found books for a solution that saves money

Upper-level students can build portfolios, choosing when to test or be graded, in order to achieve the vocational goals they desire. Homeschoolers do this now and the model is successful and proven.

Failure is an important experience and students need chances to try things that may not work without penalties. Students themselves can help document their work and build these programs. Ongoing discussions of options and resources would be he central feature of this approach. Many students would be in he community as well as the school, working on their portfolios and at apprenticeships.

The idea that you can measure learning was a powerful idea in the late 19th and early 20th century and it has left an indelible mark on our educational system. Debate about standardized testing obscures the structural issues of the measuring system known as grading, a system and practice that supports grade level and accreditation. But many new ideas in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience make the 19th-century behaviorist use of grading clearly wrong. (See the work of Alfie Kohn and Peter Grey.)

Building the physical infrastructure of buildings in every community across all 50 states was an immense effort to provide these communities with common spaces called schools. These spaces were never available for communities to use in their own ways as compulsory attendance laws were soon enacted. And the pressure of coping with the large groups of people now mandated to use these facilities quickly led to grading and other attempts to organize the flow of people along the lines of the many factories industrialization was creating at that time.

The metrics of grading are a way of sorting people that proved a powerful method of administering the large groups of people who began using these new public facilities, the schools. Two different institutions were developed about this time and the contrast between them is clear: the schools became compulsory, graded literacy factories, and the public libraries became free and open resources for communities.  Schools need to move toward the library model as more democratic and to ensure schools do not become child labor camps. 

See Joe Bower Abolish Grading
teacher's Grading Moratorium stories  also at Bower's blog