Why Grades Don’t Work

“I think I deserve better than ‘meet expectations,” commented the STEAM assistant in a follow-up meeting after her review for the year. We were asked to fill out an assistant teacher evaluation for our STEAM assistant in the preschool. This position was new this year got defined as the year progressed. We have two PreK 3 and two PreK 4 classes with a teacher and teacher assistant in each room. The STEAM assistant works with the four teachers, the STEM coach, the math coach, the preschool science teacher, and the innovation team to come up with centers that integrate all these subjects for our preschoolers. Now the year is drawing to an end, and all of us were asked to complete an evaluation. Not a big deal, right? Well…

The innovation team met, we came up with a ‘rating’ system and presented the form to our team member. That’s when it was evident that our rating system did not work. The STEAM assistant is a person who is motivated to grow and learn. She likes to take the initiative and is reliable. We all know there is always room to improve and technologies are changing fast. We went with ‘meet expectations’ because it was her first year and she is learning different tools she can use to incorporate during the STEAM activities. The format was wrong. Together we came up with a goal sheet for next year with measurable and attainable objectives for the next year. That encouraged her. Ding, ding, ding, ding! That’s when it dawned on me what a disservice we are doing our children with grading them. They feel the same way!

Yes, we want to hold our students accountable. Yes, we want to motivate and empower them. Maybe we are going about it in the wrong way. The goal is for students to become happy, self-reliant, confident, and responsible learners who love the process and know how and where to go for resources. There is always room for improvement, right? I think of myself as a lifelong learner. Does an A encourage me, or does it tell me I mastered it and there is no deeper learning possible or necessary? Perhaps short-term goals and narratives would create a lot more lifelong learners. I would love to hear your opinion.

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