Why Teachers are Experimenting with Pointless Grading
After reading a book on the importance and weight of grades in classrooms, many Parker teachers got together to discuss a new grading system based on the ideas in that book.
The term "pointless" it is not meant to deem classes unproductive or bad, but it instead implies that no points will be rewarded for individual assignments. While no points will be given, students will still receive a grade at the end of the semester based on their work and comprehension throughout the course. This system intends to take the focus away from completion, and towards comprehension, by emphasizing learning goals and the skills students need to do well in school and beyond.
“Pointless” grading has been adopted by many teachers at the school including Ms. Mannion, Ms. Weigle, and Ms. Smith. I met with these teachers to better understand why they chose to go pointless.
“An emphasis on points betrays the authenticity of reading and writing,” said Ms. Smith. She chose to go pointless in her 8th grade English class to encourage students to take risks with their writing, without the worry that they won’t earn their desired score. She wants students to feel inspired rather than pressured. This system means that instead of receiving a percent or letter grade on an individual assignment, they will instead receive extensive feedback so that they can understand what they did well and how they can improve.
Ms. Mannion and Ms. Weigle are also going pointless in their math classrooms. Similarly, the structure of their courses aims to support students’ learning of the material and earn a higher grade with deeper levels of understanding. In their classes, homework assignments are not graded. Instead, grades are based on chapter check-ins to see if the student is digesting the material to their fullest potential. These check-ins are intended to be low stress and can be retaken until a student is satisfied with their grade.
Many students had passionate things to say regarding the new grading system in the form Parker Press distributed. One student said that they feel they are wasting their time and that colleges will think they are a slacker because their grades are so heavily revolved around tests. Another student agrees with the stress of test-based grading, but also can see how this allows a better understanding of subjects.
One positive opinion from students on this new grading system is that it helps prevent cheating. It makes students not rely on easy homework grades where it can be easy to fake learning by looking up answers online or copying a friend’s work. Instead, it encourages them to spend their time studying and actually learning material. This may be a celebration for some, but challenging for others.
With nearly three quarters left to go, opinions from students and teachers may fluctuate after having more time to adjust to the system. Whether you like or dislike this new perspective of learning, it is important to see both the pros and the cons of pointless grading.
Do you like the new grading system?
This pie chart is compiled from Parker students’ answers to the school-wide google form released on September 17th, 2021.