So it turns out we've been indoctrinated by grades. All of us. Yes, indoctrinated. Programmed. Brainwashed.
Let me put it like this: how many reasons can you find to tell me why a no-grades approach isn't practical? It's easy. Let's just count:
1) Grades motivate students.
2) Grades identify struggling students and academically ineligible students.
3) Grades are useful in ranking students for valedictorian, etc.
4) Grades are necessary for colleges deciding whom to accept.
5) Grades help us decide which students to promote and which to hold back.
6) Grades tell us what students have learned.
Why do we believe all this? For one, we've nearly all been raised this way. Some of us - me included, have defined ourselves by grades. Are you an A student? Did you get a four-point in school? Or are you the other kind, hounded by your parents (or not) and feeling like you might not make it through school after all?
I will confess that in my own house I am surrounded by discussions of grades. One child does not earn high marks but seems not to care, and the other child is nearly obsessed with earning high marks and actually identifies with the "smart kids" in order to fit in. I've always told them that I don't care what grades they get as long as they are learning, and as long as these grades are C's or above - because if not, then they're not learning. Wait, what?
Yep, I can't shake the grade philosophy out of my head either, even though I know intellectually - as I wrote yesterday - that grades are a superficial and intrinsically meaningless overlay of what's actually important: learning. As a parent I can't seem to remember this, although as a teacher I am getting it.
In my classroom, I have begun to make some progress. Read about my first steps into a no-grades classroom approach tomorrow.