Should We Grade Students? I'm a 10th grade student, and sometimes, I wonder what's the point of putting a numerical average on all our work. It just seems-or is it?- an unreliable way to determine true competency. How are colleges supposed to know what you really did (as opposed to earning lots of completely unrelated EC)? There are of course extracurriculars, but those aren't (supposedly) nearly as important compared to to the GPA. School seems to be a factory; do a whole bunch of worksheets, turn them in, and then pass a test. It just seems as if it's geared toward putting a numerical average down for the sake of something measurable, but is true learning really measurable to any extent? What would be a better method, if any, to assess students in academics? 

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I think grades are part of the past.  How many teacher tests (my own, especiallly) are reliable and verefiable?  Could we do better with our time than test (I hope so)?  I think we would do better with a pass/fail system, as long as the pass grade is something other than the minimum 65 ... perhaps 75 or 80.  The problem is, we're still using unreliable tools.  I think they have a purpose in giving students some idea of how they're doing ... but it may only be telling them how well they do on tests ... that's the first thing many tests tell us.  I offer all my students a B if they do all the things I ask them to do.  If they do them REALLY well, they get an A (I guarantee that at least 20% of the class will get an A --- arbitrary for motivation), if they do minimal work, they get a C; if they do nothing, they get an F.  Admitedly it's subjective, but it works for me.

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There are ways to make grades less arbitrary, but at the end of the day, something will always get lost in the process of assigning a number to something as intangible as learning. I do think we need to move more toward a model that emphasizes student progress over their performance in relation to arbitrarily determined goals and standards. 

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I agree.  Grades are a necessity, but they can sometimes get in the way of learning and inhibit the relationship between teacher and student.  You do not need grades to learn; you need feedback.  A "point" does not actually exist.  It is as fictional as the subjects math, English, science and so on.  These exist only to put quantitative data on a transcript.  Grades are subjective.  Even if two teachers give the same objective test and score it objectively, one might make it worth 100 points and another 50.  Even if they are both 100 points, one teacher might have 500 points total and another 1000, so the weights will be different.  Grades are a fiction.

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The common sentiment, especially among teachers, on this subject is that if we lived in a world where learning was done for the sake of learning, students were self motivated, and lessons learned were immediately applied, a formal method of assessment would be unnecessary.

As it is, public schools today are less a means of educational facilities, and more like people storage facilities.  Even as a teacher, though it pains me to admit this, I believe it is true.  This is why Montessori schools can and do exist.  There is no formal assessment in Montessori schools and students move at their own pace, motivated by their own educational goals.

Some private schools are surprisingly similar.  Yet, again, the problem is when the crossroads comes from transitioning outof this environment and into the traditional education environment.  How does a person prove he's ready for university, when the university acceptance board only speaks one formalized assessment language?

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Today, there seems to be a movement away from learning for the sake of learning and an emphasis on preparing students for the world of work.  Whether that is a good trend remains to be seen.  However, given today's educational priorities, grading and standardized tests have great importance because when we do enter the world of work, we are "graded" all the time.  An employer doesn't usually care if an employee is doing his or her best.  The employer expects a certain level of production, and if it is not forthcoming, the employee eventually loses the job.  This is a reality that most of us must deal with, and grades and standardized tests do help prepare us for that reality. 

 

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I agree that in an ideal world, we would not need grades; everyone would work to their potential at their own best pace. However, we live in the real world, and we need to be able to both motivate students and report out to others on their progress. At this point, grades are the universally accepted way to do those things.

A grade should really only report on what a student has or has not learned. Consequently practice work should not be included, nor should effort, attendance, attitude, etc. However most students are not mature enough to work based solely on internal personal motivation, so most schools include such things as a carrot/stick to get students to go along with the program.

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Grades can serve to motivate students and demonstrate achievement. Academic assessments and measuring tools can communicate ability to the next institution that a student enters - moving from middle school to high school, high school to college. Fundamentally, grades show us whether or not a student has attained the knowledge and skills of a grade level. 

You ask what other measures can we employ to signify academic ability and achievement...and the alternative can't be just another mode of grading...

We could create a system of more discrete categories of education where students are not given a mark as to how well they have done in a course, but instead track a student according to the mastery of a specified set of skills. The skills that have been tested for and achieved can be checked off the grid and the student can move on to the next set of skills. This way we would measure student progress instead of relative ability via grades. 

But this would still be a codified and somewhat arbitrary set of measures and would require assessments. And if a group of students is allowed to move all at their own speed, many teachers would be required. 

 

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I think the end of your post hits on the true dilemma here.  There is no really good way to measure true learning.  For that matter, it's actually kind of difficult to even define true learning.  Have you learned something if you know it well now but, after not using it or thinking about it for a year, you forget it?  

There is no way to measure the true depth of a person's understanding so we have to use substitutes.  Better teachers and schools, (in my opinion) shy away from the "do lots of worksheets" model.  But we really have no choice but to assess and grade because there's nothing else that is workable in the context of the large class sizes and the need to have a regular system where people move ahead at a given pace.

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To some extent, you're right. The current school system is based on assessment. For some students, they would have nomotivation to learn without grades. For others, a lack of grades might actually inspire them to work harder. Ingeneral, we need a way to assess students. This is usually done through grades. There are few other reliable ways to gather data on learning and on student achievement. 

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