Should teachers go gradeless? A new trend in education is getting attention

Systems across the country have been considering going gradeless in the classrooms. It’s increasing popularity has been catching the eyes of educators.

What does it mean to go gradeless?

Although “going gradeless” does not mean completely stopping assessments of students, it does mean changing the way students are assessed in the classroom. As a reference, by contrast, many high schools have policies in place for each class to provide students with two grades per week.

Exactly what a gradeless classroom would look like is yet to be determined as different teachers have applied this concept various ways, but there are some factors that have been considered and various methods applied with success as described in books like Going Gradeless by Elise Burns and David Frangiosa and Hacking Assessment by Starr Sackstein. Teachers and students for the movement have said there should be specific and ongoing feedback rather than letter grades and percentages. Many have also shared that students would not receive grades throughout the semester, but receive an end-of-semester grade based off their personal goals and personal growth.

Is going gradeless beneficial?

Educators that support the new system believe that the current system doesn’t correctly reflect a student’s learning. Many behind the movement also believe the system change would take off stress from students and teachers. Educators have also said that going gradeless promotes reflection and self-assessment.

What is the purpose of going gradeless?

Removing grades would supposedly promote learning, improve feedback, and increase student motivation.

NYC Schools share the plan for grading in the 2020-2021 term

Some argue that the current grading system is subjective.

“Let’s face it. Grading is subjective. It really is. Some teachers might take effort into account, others not so much. What one teacher deems an ‘A’ on an essay, another thinks of it as a ‘C.’ In short, this subjectivity makes grading extremely unfair and inequitable,” said Anthony Lince in his article Why I’m Going Gradeless This Year.

The increase of popularity for systems going gradeless has shed light and is causing people to reflect on current systems. Some argue that the demands of a gradeless system would be unfeasible. For example, a teacher in an ELA class may need to be constantly providing written feedback for 150 students requiring extensive and oftentimes delayed feedback.

Many counter that students and staff may only be weary of an approach because of the unknown factors. It may seem less possible and problematic until it is tried. Proponents of the system admit that even students may be weary of this system because they are used to the instant gratification of a grade, but that ultimately, the more gradeless system has longer lasting and authentic benefits to grow. Greater questions open as to how this may reflect ultimately on college acceptance where a student’s GPA is a significant contributing factor.

As systems continue to test the waters with this new grading technique, this trend continues to catch the eyes of many educators. It would be worth exploring and taking into consideration what has worked with those who have tried and what questions are left to solve.

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