Grading for Equity (Part 2)

Schools across the United States, both public and private, are currently using a century-old practice of grading. We are talking about Taylorism and mass production. We are talking about when we operated with the belief that learning was fixed. So if in the twenty-first century, we now recognize the value in a growth mindset, why are we still using assembly line practices?

At one time or another in my teaching career I fell into every category of inequitable grading. I gave extra credit. I took points off for late work. I averaged term grades.

Is a student really demonstrating their understanding of the material if they watch a movie for extra credit points? Is taking off points for work that was submitted late a sign of the student’s achievement? Is averaging term grades really ever going to accurately demonstrate student growth?

Grading for equity is about a student’s mastery of the course outcomes—something all the extra credit in the world won’t tell an educator. When we move to more accurate grading processes that describe a student’s level of academic performance, we break the feedback loop of taking resource disparities and perpetuating them by turning them into achievement disparities. We begin to foster intrinsic motivation in students as we allow space for failure. And we begin to create a bias-resistant curriculum that aligns with the mission of a Quaker institution such as George School.

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