Grading without Grading

report card

A few months into my first year at an Upper Manhattan private school, I have finished my first round of report cards. Actually, at my new school we don’t call them report cards; we just call them “comments.” Why? Well, because that’s what they are: comments. Words. Not a single number on the page.

In other words, my students do not receive grades—or at least grades as they are commonly understood in the world of education. There is no number or letter designated to represent their academic performance. There is no top or bottom 10 percent. At a school where New York’s elite and powerful fight to get their children admitted, student progress is not measured quantitatively or competitively.*

To be honest, I’m still wrapping my head around this. After teaching in the public schools, where quantitative assessments determine student success and school funding, I’m still trying to figure out how the lack of conventional grades alters a school environment. For now, I simply think it’s worth noting that one of the most selective, respected schools in New York City relies entirely on qualitative assessments until its students reach their teens. As the Department of Education pushes scantron tests on students too young to hold their pencils, this seems, at the very least, worth our consideration.

*This is true through elementary and into middle school. From late middle school into high school, the students are graded. I teach sixth grade, so I only write comments.

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