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de-testing and de-grading schools

Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization


Edited By Joe Bower and Paul L. Thomas

A century of education and education reform, along with more than three decades of high-stakes testing and accountability, reveals a disturbing paradox: education has a steadfast commitment to testing and grading. This commitment persists despite ample research, theory, and philosophy revealing the corrosive consequences of both testing and grading in an education system designed to support human agency and democratic principles. This revised edited volume brings together a collection of updated and new essays that confronts the failure of testing and grading. The book explores the historical failure of testing and grading; the theoretical and philosophical arguments against testing and grading; the negative influence of tests and grades on social justice, race, class, and gender; and the role that they play in perpetuating a deficit perspective of children. The chapters fall under two broad sections. Part I, Degrading Learning, Detesting Education: The Failure of High-Stake Accountability in Education, includes essays on the historical, theoretical, and philosophical arguments against testing and grading. Part II, De-Grading and De-Testing in a Time of High-Stakes Education Reform, presents practical experiments in de-testing and de-grading classrooms for authentic learning experiences.
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Introduction: An Unexamined Pedagogy Harms


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An Unexamined Pedagogy Harms


Frankly, I was surprised Paul Thomas and Joe Bower asked me to write this introduction to the new edition of De-Testing and De-Grading Schools. I spend considerable time training educators on the merits, ethics, and practicalities of standards-based assessment and grading. It seemed I perpetuated at least some of the very thing this book advises against.

Then I took a step back and recognized that I’m a big fan of Mark Barnes and his latest book, Assessment 3.0, which describes the research and classroom realities for students whose teachers stop grading their work, and of his Facebook community, “Teachers Throwing Out Grades.” Todd Farley’s book, Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry, is one of the most upsetting books for education I’ve ever read, and I recommend it to everyone in the profession. I also look forward to every time I read the works of Alfie Kohn, Steve Krashen, Diane Ravitch, and the late Grant Wiggins and Gerald Bracey. I know Paul and Joe from past experiences as well, and I respect their work and writings very much.

In addition, early in every training on assessment and grading that I do, I remind participants of the bigger picture: In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have grades. I explain how they limit learning, are really nonsense symbols giving us a false sense...

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