In my last post, I described why I’m UNgrading my students. Yet, we all know the why is the easy part. I’ve convinced many teachers that grades are harmful and that the carrot and the stick don’t motivate people.
However, these teachers usually give me the, “well, in a perfect world, there wouldn’t be grades, but…” response and I know the real conversation is over.
Still with me? Good.
As I outlined in my last post, I’m working within a very typical system. Not a charter school nor an alternative school; major poverty issues, etc.
My goal for this year is to not give my students a single grade.
So, how am I navigating these waters? Keep in mind that it’s a work in progress:
- For the first 2 required progress report dates of the year, I had students complete a form telling me what grade they deserved and why. I entered their grades into the gradebook and attached their form to it to take home. The only change I made to any of their grades was to raise a “D” to a “B” in one case.
- For athletic eligibility, I’ve done a similar thing. Athletes fill out a quick form for me on Thursday and I post it as is. I’ve really come to believe that using athletic eligibility as a carrot/ stick is cruel. For some of our kids, that’s the only reason they’re in school at all. Taking it away from them usually results in giving up.
- Students are creating the rubrics for each project we do. They dtermine the criteria and the constraints for the project. I make sure they don’t get too specific or symplistic.
- At the end of each project, student give themselves a grade using their rubric. That is the grade they get. If I really think a student is way off, I will sit down with them and talk about it. Hopefully, they will convince me (with their knowledge) that I missed something. If not, we may split the difference. Part of what I’m looking for here too is how they feel about their project. If they are really proud of their work, who am I to tell them that it’s not good enough?
- Students are also compiling a digital portfolio of their work as we go. At the end of the semester, I will meet with each. They will tell me what grade they deserve and why.
- We have also had a few whole class inquiry activities this year. In these types of challenges, the class was told that they would receive a common grade. This grade was solely determined by group consensus, not by me.
- Finally, I’m giving lots and lots of descriptive feedback in the general format of “I Notice/ I Wonder/ What If?”. I’m having students use this same format to give peer feedback.
This is how I’m working within district requirements while doing my best to subvert grades. I’m calling it UNgrading because the students are getting grades, just not from me.
Next post: UNgrading – the early returns are in!