I’m going to make the same confession to you that I made to my assistant principal a few years ago: I don’t like grading, I’m not good at it, and I’m not interested in getting better at it.
To most teachers, I’d be willing to bet, this is a shocking statement, and certainly not one someone ought to make to an administrator. Nonetheless, I was buried under a mountain of ungraded papers, philosophical uncertainty about the value of grades, and a growing awareness that my students tended to value their grades far more than their learning, so I said it.
Upon making this assertion, my assistant principal smiled, leaned back in her chair, and said, “So what are you going to do about it?”
This question, “What are we going to do about grades?” has haunted me for years. Sure, grades are a tool for providing feedback to students and to provide information about students to educational stakeholders. However, I don’t think they are the best tool, or even a remotely good tool.
There’s research that indicates this as well: studies have shown that grades encourage cheating (Anderman et al., 1998), spoil teachers’ relationships with students (Kirschenbaum et al., 1971), spoil students’ relationships with each other (Johnson and Johnson, 1989; Kohn, 1992), encourage laziness (Harter, 1978; Harter and Guzman, 1986; Kage, 1991; Milton et al., 1986), and are not reliable measures of what students know and can do (Kirschenbaum et al., 1971).