How testing culture makes us dumber and less democratic

This post is also cross posted on Teachers Going Gradeless website.

As schools reconvened on Thursday, January 7, many teachers again faced the task of helping students make sense of another traumatizing event. The day before, a mob of pro-Trump extremists descended on our nation’s capitol seeking to overturn the election and exact retribution on their political enemies. Many teachers took to Twitter to urge on and equip one another — both for the short term of another “day after” and the long term soul-searching spurred by the realization: most of these people once sat in public school classrooms.


After the murder of more Black people

Photo by Daniel Watson on Unsplash

It’s 2:30 in the morning as I type this. It was oppressively hot as our children found their way into our bedroom to seize all the available real estate on our bed. Their bodies contort in impossible shapes. My wife has retreated onto our perpetually folded-out futon.

I am crammed between the lithe, compact body of our youngest and the futon’s arm rest, parched with thirst. Carefully prying my body free, I stagger down the hall, drink some water directly out of the tap, and return to the bedroom. I pull the chain of the ceiling fan to send the…

Teaching and the pursuit of blank spaces

Photo by from Pexels

I’m not entirely exaggerating when I say I stay in this job for the office supplies.

Despite the proliferation of online tools like Flipgrid, Padlet, and PearDeck, tried-and-true office products like Post-It Notes, Sharpies, and multi-colored jumbo kraft paper have remained my favorite ways to get the creative juices flowing.

By the end of each year, my classroom walls are literally wallpapered with colorful kraft paper, which my students and I clutter with clusters of sticky notes. This year we ran out of brite green kraft paper, rendering the reliably glorious rainbow of thought incomplete (I ended up settling for…

Despite the rhetoric, modern movements to reform schools have had a devastating effect on education

Photo: Wittayayut/Getty Images

As a full-time teacher, I don’t have a lot of time to look up from the dailiness of the job to consider something as nebulous as the “future” of education. When I do, I feel a vague unease that too many non-teachers seem to have a lot of time to do this kind of thinking.

One thing in my favor is that education reform seems to take the same basic forms, year after year. There’s the standards and accountability movement and the ongoing attempts to give it “teeth.” Then there are the tech giants peddling autonomy and self-direction in lieu…

Why content and the canon is only part of the problem

From Dead Poets Society (1989)

Racism only ever appears…as what it is not, as something other than it is. It is essentially misleading, suggesting that the underlying affective system operates only to the extent that it does not appear as such. — Jared Sexton

Recently, the College Board has come under fire for its changes to AP World History, announcing that the course would now limit itself to covering only history after 1450 CE. Critics of the move point out that removing the 8,000 years before that date threatens to further enshrine a Eurocentric view of history, marginalizing the history and accomplishments of African, American…

Although I never personally saw it, the title of this piece was something scrawled on the wall of a school restroom. A couple of my AP English Literature students brought it to my attention because we spend a lot of time in class examining the possible figurative significance of literal things. They rightly recognized that, unless by an unfortunate coincidence our school is built over one of those fabled portals to the underworld, it is, at worst, figuratively a hellhole.

Still, that’s a pretty bad statement. …

Why the rhetoric of “intrinsic motivation” is not enough


Hilda: My lovely, lovely castle. Our castle in the air!
Solness: On a firm foundation.

One of the more profound ironies of “going gradeless” is realizing just how fundamental grades are to the architecture of schools.

Grades undergird nearly everything we do in education. By threatening late penalties and administering one-shot assessments, we focus our famously distracted students on the task at hand. By regularly updating our online gradebooks, we provide an ongoing snapshot of student performance so precise it can be calculated to the hundredths place.

Grades inform our curriculum and instruction too. Because so much rides on them…

Why natural, neutral, and nothing is not enough

Photo credit Aya Okawa

I think I recently realized that for me, since going gradeless doesn’t address inequity, it leaves much to be desired. Good teaching involves meaningful feedback and the trust that students need to be heard and understood. I know we all know this, but we’re not addressing it in this context. And that feels empty to me. Grading less seems to me to be empty not because of the “less” but because of the elephant that persists in remaining nameless.

—Marian Dingle, personal communication

Around this time last year, I was writing a series of articles about the “cans of worms”…

Join Teachers Going Gradeless on Twitter for a summer of learning

Morgan Sessions

This past week, I had the honor of hosting our second chat on the topic of “Getting Started.” I thought that participating in the previous TG2 Twitter chat (Aaron Blackwelder moderating) was intense. Taking on the mantle of moderator notched it up to a whole new level.

Using an online portfolio in the gradeless classroom

Portions of this post will appear in Ken O’Connor’s How to Grade for Learning, K-12 Fourth Edition

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about how two weird findings permanently changed my perspective on grades.

The first finding (Butler, 1988), showed that, of the three types of feedback — scores, scores with comments, and comments alone — students who received comments alone demonstrated the greatest improvement. The second finding (Hattie, 2012) demonstrated that, among hundreds of educational interventions studied, student self-assessment/self-grading topped the list with the highest effect size.

These two findings — so opposed to what I was doing in…

Arthur Chiaravalli

Teacher, learner, thinker. Exploring what’s possible in education.

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