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Why Don’t We Have Grades At Bixby?

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At schools across the country, December typically marks the end of a semester. A time when teachers often give out mid-year grades to their students. This opinion piece in last Sunday’s New York Times offers a compelling perspective on what grades do and don’t measure. Like everything at Bixby, there is purpose behind our practice of not using grades to communicate about our students’ growth and development. At Bixby we don’t use grades simply because they do not measure what matters most for children at this stage of their development or, more importantly, who they are as people. Grades can oversimplify the complexity of learning, and may in fact set an artificial and arbitrary ceiling on what kids see as possible for themselves and their imagination. Observing and responding to our students’ social, emotional and academic growth is our purpose as a school and we pay very close attention to it each day. It is indeed our responsibility to ensure that students leave Bixby prepared for whatever comes next. However, capturing success or failure through grading by definition requires one to limit the variety of ways that a student can demonstrate learning. Our children have a lifetime of external “pass” and “failure” ahead of them as they enter adulthood. Certainly, these external measures may have consequences for them. However, deep understanding, intrinsic motivation and active learning – these are the experiences that matter, and this is what we pay attention to at Bixby. People who have these experiences decide for themselves what measures of their lives and themselves matter.

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