Rethinking Grades: A Primer

It’s become clear to me lately that the grading reform discussions that took place almost ten years ago, and led to many positive changes across the country, need to be revisited.  In my own school district, policies were drafted and implemented that proclaimed “The purpose of a grading system is to appropriately and consistently measure and communicate an individual student’s level of mastery of defined learning objectives.” and “Grading practices are not to be punitive in nature.”

Yet, so many educators cling to the idea that grades need to prepare students for the real world and motivate them to do better, despite the fact that the absence of grades in the “real world” would seem to indicate that student need other motivators.  I have forced myself to step away from some of these discussions lately in order to take a deep breath and collect some resources to share.  To that end, here are some starting points for discussions in your school or with your professional learning team about what grades are and what they need to be.

People to Follow

  • Dr. Justin Tarte (@justintarte and Justin does a LOT of writing about grading.  His website and twitter feed are full of useful resources and quotable nuggets.
  • Grant Wiggins ( It’s difficult to express how much Grant’s death earlier this year affected me.  His writing has guided a lot of my thinking over the years. Just before he left us, he published a series on his blog with answers to common grading questions.

Short Reads


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