I want a grading system that relates my child’s rate of improvement, NOT judged by their ability to conform, regurgitate information for a test, or memorize. I do not want them to be judged based on their proof of pleasing the needs of the teacher or the school, but to learn what is going to improve their lives, and give them the best chance for success. I want it to be based on process and progress rather than performance.
By now you know that I am a homeschooling mom of not only my children, but of others that have asked as well. I write curriculum based on Einstein's quote: "Everyone is a genius. But if you try to teach a fish to climb a tree, it will spend it's entire life believing it is stupid." EVERY child has the right to learn who he is, what he has to offer, and have REAL teachers that mentor and help him find the greatness within himself that makes him a true learner, and valuable to our world.
I teach a different mentality though, and am grateful that I get the opportunity to explore what works for these kids and act on it.
This hasn’t come without it’s trials, however. I was a public school teacher, and then I homeschooled and tried multiple methods. I still couldn’t seem to get away from the conventional, grade based system of expectation, judgement, hierarchy, and teaching to the test.
I didn’t know what I wanted specifically, but I knew I wanted more for my children, and I knew all learners deserve better.
What I teach now is a “Functional Education that is Expansion Based”. This means that the applications of the presented material is functional, built to be used in the student’s life, or show the value of such education. It teaches them to search for what their interests are, how to apply what they learn to their own lives, build their futures, and develop a real curiosity and purpose for education. This works into my belief that every person has a Greatness Within, something even greater than a “purpose” to share out into the world. It is something that fills them, nurtures them, completes them, satisfies them. This cannot be taught too young. It teaches them to master the expression of their own lives, to see their own value, and to be a servant even as an inheritor of abundance.
It would follow, then, that I could not apply a traditional grade, percentage, or point based grading system. My goal is that their education is mastery based, and it has been proven that a traditional grading system is not successful in this endeavor.
In my opinion, it simply sets up a hierarchy of better than or worse than. It teaches our young people not to strive to “beat their own best” but to be better than others. It sets up a system of power and judgement by knowing who is “good” and “not smart”. It teaches kids that they are “unteachable” or stupid when really they are in a system that doesn’t accomodate them. It teaches kids how to play the game of illusion, where image is paramount, that only those that are “good enough” can be included. In this system, you know the winners from the losers. The winners get scholarships and go to college all because they were able to fit the mold of the desk ridden quiet soldier. And this may have been that they were a good test taker, or a good memorizer, or weren’t strong enough to want to find out who they really are. Is it really beneficial to our kids, the very people that we want to become changemakers in the future, to be submissive and not learn to think for themselves? Respect is different from weakness of mind and character, keep in mind. You CAN teach respect AND strength of mind, confidence in ability, and the courage to grow in who you are.
If my belief in each person’s individual Greatness Within is strong, then I cannot follow this conventional mold, because I KNOW that in order to master the expression of your OWN greatness, you would not be able to discover it in the confines of the boxed learner.
Have you paid attention to the level of anxiety and anxiety related illnesses that are plaguing our current education systems? Might it be testament to the pressures of expectations and knowing when you don’t fit in? How stressed our young people get knowing that there is the possibility that they can “fail” that they can never be “good enough”, simply because they don’t fit the traditional model.
I wanted my system, the system I would use to the kids entrusted to me would have to be based on process and progress rather than on performance.
And when they were done learning a topic, I wanted their grading NOT to be standard judgement, but mastery and improvement based, a scale of where they were to where they are. That evidence in improvement shows EVERYONE the capability and possibility that resides in that student. It shows them that they are in fact “teachable”. They can see that indeed they are learning every day, that what they are learning has practical, functional value to their lives, and gives them a confidence in their own abilities. More than anything they can see that they, their unique abilities, their unique ways to learn have value to the world. And even better than that, it puts the teacher in a position to see what is working for each individual, to come up with different avenues of getting the information across, NOT to memorize and/or regurgitate information in order to pass a test, but to work towards mastery for usefulness to the learner.
How to use a Progressive, Expansive, Improvement Based Grading System
The way of using a progressive curriculum is a topic all on its own, but for the intents and purposes of at least grading on progress, I’ll show how to simply use the scale.
I list objectives at the beginning of the quarter of topics in each subject that I want the students to master, based on scope and sequence for their grade as well as what is necessary based on the student’s abilities.
To the right of the objectives are 4 squares, one for each quarter.
Quarter 1 2 3 4