Changing school is no easy task. The last 10 years have been rigorous and vigorous, filled with set-backs and progress.
My students' success has offered the most powerful proof that I am on to something. I have found validation and support by sharing my work through my blog, twitter and other publications.
In 2011, Alfie Kohn cited my work with rethinking assessment in his article The Case Against Grades.
Most recently, I am excited to see my work cited in Sir Ken Robinson's most recent book Creative School: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education.
In chapter seven titled Testing, Testing, Sir Ken Robinson writes:
Some teachers have always used a range of assessment methods in class. The rise of testing has made that more difficult, but some teachers are pushing back in their own classrooms. There are challenges, but there can be enormous benefits too. For example, Joe Bower is a science and language arts teacher in Alberta, Canada, who, six years into his teaching career, decided that he could no longer abide by using grades as his primary form of assessment.
"I have come to see grades as schools' drug of choice, and we are all addicted... Grades were originally tools used by teachers, but today teachers are tools used by grades."
What Bower discovered was that the reliance on grading made him less effective as a teacher and had a negative effect on students. He points out that when many students are asked what they got out of a class, they'll respond with something like, "I got an A." While his school insisted that he give grades on report cards, he abolished all other grades in his classroom and delivered the report card grade only after asking his students to assess their own work and recommend the grade they should receive. The students' suggestions usually aligned with his, and there were far more cases where students would have recommended a lower grade than a higher one. The result of doing away with grading was that he eased the pressure on his students and allowed them to focus on the content of their assignments and their classwork rather than on the rubric to score them.
"When we try to reduce something that is as magnificently messy as real learning, we always conceal far more than we ever reveal. Ultimately, grading gets assessment wrong because assessment is not a spreadsheet -- it is a conversation. I am a very active teacher who assesses students every day, but I threw out my grade book years ago. If we are to find our way and make learning, not grading, the primary focus of school, then we need to abandon our mania for reducing learning and people to numbers."