Rochester Public School student Kashanti Taylor switches the perspective and grades the Grading for Learning System, "I give it an A+!".
The words “Grading for Learning” resonated in my ears. My first reaction was, “Oh no, what is this?” to which my psychology teacher, Mr. Lunde, would point out was an example of classically conditioned resistance to new and unfamiliar things. But now I have applied “semantic meaning” to this grading and teaching concept, and I’m here to share that with you all!
First thing’s first, I will outline why I believe this concept is beneficial to students. Throughout my academic career, I have been involved in many social justice causes. One underlying theme of my involvement and advocacy is reaching equity for everyone, especially for marginalized populations. It is the responsibility of those in power to take action in reaching that said equity. I believe as an educated, able-bodied, U.S. born citizen, it is my responsibility to contribute to this fight for equity. I also believe that as educators, it is your job to do the same! And one step you can make to reaching that equity for everyone is adopting the concept of Grading for Learning into your classroom. The whole idea behind this new grading and teaching style is to make learning accessible and fair for each student. For so long there have been practices that have made it difficult for some students to succeed; before or after school make-up times, extra credit that involves access to transportation, homework that requires access to wifi or external support… you get my point, right? There may be a small population of students that this applies to, but I guarantee 9 times out of 10 that they are also facing other hardships. So why not make it easier on them? I am one of those students and I will tell you how this grading and teaching concept has changed my path of success.
Back in junior year is when I first experienced what Grading for Learning really is. I signed up for the rigorous AP Calculus BC. (In hindsight that probably wasn’t the best idea without having had Calculus AB, but the more you know!) I had no idea what to really expect because I hadn’t known anyone that had already taken the class—my usual method of gauging my success in a class! My fear and anxiety were elevated from the very idea of taking that class, but I was committed to the challenge of “all APs”—for students, specifically sophomores, reading this, don’t do this! (I’m warning you!) The first day of class rolls around and our teacher, Mr. Wagner, makes a surprising announcement to us: “There will be no graded homework assigned for the year.” My internal thoughts went from shock to confusion to pure excitement! No homework for the entire year? Sign me up! I hadn’t known the “why” at the time, but that didn’t change the positive effect that it had on me. In that class, I was able to truly learn without the fear of failing because our teacher allowed us to work and learn at our own pace. Yes, we learned lessons as a class, but he worked with each individual student to find out how he could best support them. We were able to retest and prove our knowledge of those monstrous standards, which personally did a lot for my self-esteem. That year was really tough for me; I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety due to outside forces, so his effort in supporting each and every student’s learning was greatly meaningful. The impact that Mr. Wagner had on me was immeasurable and I will forever be grateful for experiencing such an equitable and supportive model of grading and teaching. And I can guarantee your students will feel the same way as you ease your way into Grading for Learning!
Kashanti Taylor, Class of 2020