Why do schools assign grades?
Grades and grading are such natural parts of our educational system, it seems almost silly to ask this question. It's like asking, Why do people walk?, or Why do have eyes? Still, if we think about the meaning and purpose of grades, I would say that most people have an answer to this question.
Grades tell us our ability in a particular academic area.
Well...maybe that is what grades are supposed to do, but (in reality) do grades serve other purposes? If you are a teacher, have you ever given a student a bad grade because the assignment was handed in late? Have you ever taken points off of a test because a student was talking during the test? In these instances, the grade was determined (at least partially) based on a student's behavior and not on the student's ability.
As a student, have you ever received a good grade and learned nothing about the thing you were graded on? Have you ever received an "A" on a test based on what you were able to memorize? In these instances, the grade didn't represent ability; it represented compliance. You did what you were told to do.
As a parent, do you ever question the good grades that you children earn? Do you encourage your children to get good grades, or do you encourage your children to learn? Do you view grades as a sort of competition...Your kid vs. the other kids...Who is going to win?
Starr Sackstein. Also Alfie Kohn, Jen Rubino, and Education Stormfront. I worry that grading is taking over our education system. I worry that learning--the joy of learning; the desire to learn--has fallen into a (far) second place.
There is so much pressure on students to get good grades. Do grades mean what they used to mean? Do grades reflect a student's ability? Does anyone care if grades reflect a student's ability? Grades don't have to be the enemy; but (I think) the desire to seek good grades over the desire to learn is dangerous. We give students a false sense accomplishment when we say that they have "earned" grades and they didn't. We give parents a false sense of their child's ability too. How many students get great grades in high school and then cannot make it to their sophomore year in college? Surely, this isn't our goal.
Why do schools assign grades? Why (should) schools assign grades? And, can we lessen the importance of grades and increase the importance of learning?
I hope we can.
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