A few weeks back I received a grade for a class in which I was enrolled for my doctorate. I received a B+ for 95%…that damn curve. At first I was upset. I thought "in what world is a 95% a B+" or "who curves grades anymore?, why is this happening to me?" or "why is the measurement of my learning affected by someone else's grade?" And then it occurred to me:
Grades are Dead!
Sure they might not look dead, but they're gasping for their final breath of importance. A hold over from a different time, like square school lunch pizza and overhead projectors, we will soon see the traditional A-F grading scale finally put out of its misery.
I say good riddance. There are few things in this world that make less sense than the traditional model of grading. It's really not surprising if you think about it, I mean how effective can any system be that is supposed to sum up weeks or months of learning into a symbol. Do we do this in other places? For example, later this month when the school year begins, the inevitable question will be asked "how was your summer?" That's a hard question to answer, the summer is three months, filled with some great days, a few ok afternoons, and an occasional grumpy morning. Nowadays many of us seem to take a lot of photos with our phones, but I bet people would look at me kind of funny if I showed them a photo summarizing my summer.
Now that you've viewed this picture do you feel like you have a good understanding of how my summer has been going? Probably not. Keeping with this example, let's imagine the summer of my dreams: I win the lottery, get to live in a big mansion, all my friends and family get to visit, the food is great, I do some traveling…oh but on the last day my family dies in bad accident. So using our A-F logic, I was doing great for most of the summer and then had one really bad day, so the summer was about average…I might be able to even use the same picture. Sound accurate? No! This is because averaging is often the worst way of measuring experience and learning.
Of course, I'm not the only one who thinks this. I highly recommend you take a minute to look at this video by education guru, Rick Wormeli (especially around assessment).
So why do we do this to ourselves, who is this grading system serving? If A-F grading is so inaccurate, why don't we come up with a better system? What's the future of grading?
All great questions we'll look at in part two, plus why your kid's future employer won't care about their grades, but will care greatly about what they've done and can do.
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