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Ditching Traditional Grades & My Online Grade Book. Last year, I began experimenting with standards-based grading and wrote a blog titled “Grading for Mastery and Redesigning My Gradebook.” My goal was to shift the conversation away from the accumulation of points and, instead, focus on the development of skills. Although I appreciated the immediate change that took place when I began grading based on my students’ ability to master specific skills, I knew I wanted to go even further this year as I began N.E.W. School. This summer I read Starr Stackstein’s book Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School. In her book, Stackstein chronicles her journey ditching grades in a traditional school setting and offers some excellent strategies a teacher can use to go gradeless.

I found the sections titled “Track Progress Transparently,” “Teach Students to Self-Grade,” and “Cloud-based Archives” particularly helpful in planning for this year. Another column is dedicated to teacher feedback. Conversations Instead of Grades. At the start of this year, I wrote a blog titled “Grading for Mastery and Redesigning My Gradebook,” which detailed my desire to rethink assessment in my classroom. I was tired of students always asking me about points and grades, instead of asking me about how they could improve their skills. I wanted feedback and assessment to be an ongoing conversation. Too often students complete work at home in isolation. Then the teacher collects that work, takes it home, and grades it in isolation.

This traditional workflow does not encourage face-to-face conversations about where each student is at in terms of his/her journey towards mastery. Too often the time a teacher spends leaving comments and edits on student work is never used to improve those pieces. For the last 3 class periods, my students have been engaged in either a Station Rotation lesson or independent work on their digital portfolios.