In the five years since I first abolished grading, I've yet to have a parent come absolutely unglued with the prospect of no grading. I have had parents ask questions during parent-teacher interviews or student-led portfolios about this whole no grading thing, and I am more than willing to engage in the conversation - in fact, I'm usually the one who brings it up by asking "So, how do you feel about the way I do things? No grades, no homework, etc". I've noticed that many parents are relieved that I bring it up first as they are hesitant to engage in what might appear as a challenge to my teaching.
Most parents are interested in how I do it, but none of them can really conceive how school can be done without grading. I often ask myself why this is - why can't adults envision school without grades?
There are probably as many answers to this as there are adults who ask the question, but I believe there is some truth in the idea that most of us parent the way we were parented and teach the way we were taught.
But you have to remember that school was likely just as frustrating for today's parents as it is for today's students. School hasn't changed very much. Tests and grades haven't changed very much. The game of school prevails.
Parents may not know it, but we must remember that most parents are an ally in the move against grading - it's our job to remind them how it felt to be gamed by the fraudulent grading and testing machine. To remind them, I ask them these kinds of questions:
- Did you ever work really hard and learn a lot about something and receive a low grade?
- Did you ever slack off and learn almost nothing but receive a high grade?
- Can you think of someone you went to school with, and you knew they were really really smart, but always received low grades?
- Can you think of someone who received really really high grades but you knew they were a dolt and that they had, at best, a superficial understanding?
In the end, parents may not walk away 100% convinced that no-grading is the answer, but there is one more trump card here that has them leaving the interview satisfied and that is they know their child is learning. They know because for some reason, their child keeps coming home and talking about Mr. Bower and what we did in science or language arts today.
Their children are coming home saying they like school! Their children are reading more. They're asking questions and researching seemingly random stuff on the Internet. They are writing, talking and thinking about what we are doing in school.
How do parents know their children are learning? They don't need grades or test scores to know all this because they can see it with their own eyes.
Their children are happy, and so they are happy.
And that makes me happy.