A Tonic for Grades

Submitted By:
Marshall Carroll, Mercersburg Academy, Mercersburg, PA

Rethinking Grading by Cathy Vatterott
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), July 1, 2015

In the book Rethinking Grading, Vatterott starts with a brief but powerful reflection about working with students in college. Many have been shortchanged, she argues, because in the years before college they have been given grades that do not reflect learning or grades that, even worse, are obstacles to learning.  She then opens a theoretical discussion of the role of grades in the classroom, and the culture that grading practices create within schools. Vatterott raises questions such as whether grades serve the purpose of illustrating learning or whether they are more of a classroom management tool for creating conforming behavior. After creating that foundation, Vatterott guides the reader through a practical engagement with ways that grading can supplement and support standards-based learning through all academic levels, K-12. Building on fundamentals such as the psychology of learning and the growth mindset, Vatterott anchors the discussion with evidence from appropriate academic literature. This literature helps provide the framework for such questions as: Why does it matter when the learning takes place?  What if the student mastered the material after the test? This book focuses on the practical application of assessments that will improve student learning, as well as teacher performance.

Teaching Practice
Science of Learning