My Best Advice on Going No Grades


Yesterday I had the great pleasure of sharing my de-grading story with the wonderful teachers at
CISVA.  Before I spoke to them (and lost my voice subsequently) I thought about what I would tell
them if I could only share five things.  So why not share that with everyone else as well.
Find your purpose.
      It is important for you to know the “why” of what you are doing, so take time to soul search to come up with your own words for why moving away from grades is important and then continue to reflect as you go.  Coming up with your own narrative for the “why” will help you refine your process.
Stay true to you.
There are many ways to do no grades and you have to find the one that works best for you.  Perhaps that means creating other types of rubrics or feedback forms, perhaps that means having students self assess with set guidelines.  Whatever will work for you to make this process easier and manageable is great in my book.
Make it work for you.
Keep it simple; after all, you are the one that has to do all of the work.  You know how your brain works for gathering feedback and artifacts to support student learning, so incorporate those methods into your process.
Involve students.
Students, even at an elementary level, know how to set up evaluations and are surprisingly tough on themselves.  I love the rich discussions that come from asking what a finished product should look like and how we can decide whether we met those goals.
Explain, explain, and explain!
You will inevitably run into people who think you are nuts so have your facts and reasons ready.  One way to involve parents is to be very honest in your reasoning as well as your methodology and engage in a meaningful conversation with them.  I always am open to discuss all of my philosophies and actively solicit feedback about them throughout the year; this tends to diffuse any negative situations or misunderstandings that otherwise may occur.
And finally; reach out!  Help each other, find someone who is working through it as well whether in your building or not.  Ask questions of those who have gone before you and continue to reflect and refine to make the process work for you.  I will gladly help as much as I can.
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5 thoughts on “My Best Advice on Going No Grades

  1. Your blogs about no grades and no homework are spot on. Unfortunately for me (and my students), our school is part of a very large school system and those things just won't happen. We moved forward with a great reading idea this year, balanced literacy …. Perfect for no grades since its based on kids reading on their level and teachers conferring with students. It's so great for cultivating a love of reading. But, on the flip side, we are required to have X amount of homework grades and class work grades each quarter. Makes me sad. These children are "better than grades" and busy work homework. They deserve something else. Thanks for writing your powerful thoughts and for allowing me to vent!

  2. Pernille, every time I read one of your posts about going no grades I feel more and more strongly that it is the next change that I want to make. But being part of an organization that overemphasizes standardized EVERYTHING, I'm not exactly sure where to even start to try and make this happen. Can you tell us how you started on your journey?

  3. I love these ideas, but do understand the comments above: it takes bravery to challenge tradition in your building and do the right thing. I have always found that if I believe in what I do, that practice is sound, and students are the focus of my decision-making —buy-in is possible. I am planning on going back to classroom teaching after 5 years of lit coaching and I am hanging onto this post. I'd love to try out your suggestions!

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