A tale of two students


I firmly believe that marks do not belong in a primary classroom. I am convinced that well written and informative comments will aid all learners far more than any A to E grades. It breaks my heart to have to put grades on my student’s reports and this is why.

Imagine this. You are eleven years old and so far school life has been fairly easy. You learned to read and write with ease. Maths makes sense and the life of a primary classroom suits you. Assessment tasks and projects are fun, something to get your teeth into so to speak. You know what needs to be done to achieve your school goals, to please your teachers and life is good. Let’s call you student A, after all in a traditional classroom that is the kind of mark you are used to getting. In many ways you are the Ferrari of students.

Contrast this with student D, somehow school just does not quite make sense to this student. Learning to read was quite hard and you still have to think about decoding the meaning of words when reading. Writing too does not come naturally, sometimes your sentences just don’t quite make sense. It can be hard to get the grammar right when you have to spend time worrying about spelling too. Maths is tricky and sometimes despite your best intentions you just don’t get it. Assessment tasks and projects mean hard work and as for tests, well the less said about them the better. In many ways they are the Volkswagen Beetle of students.

I know that I have oversimplified two types of students but they are both in my classroom. What happens to them if I assign A to E grades on work they complete in my classroom? I am convinced that my student A learns to do just what is needed to succeed, no more and no less. And as for student D well they learn to give up, to take the easy route and to task avoid. They learn to fail.

As their teacher I need to be many things. I need to encourage and extend student A. I must ensure they aim high, that they don’t always take the easy road. that they are challenged and that they grow as a learner and a person. I must ensure they drive their Ferrari well, that they do not always rely on its superior capabilities to get them through life, that they challenge it and drive hard. For I know that to truly succeed in secondary school they will need to take risks, to work hard and to aim high.

I must challenge and extend student D too, although in different ways. I need to make them see that they can succeed. I must help them understand that they can learn, that just because they may be a Beetle that with effort and determination they can succeed in the game of school life. Yes school is hard for them but I must not let them give up. I must not let them learn to fail.

That is why I do not do grades. Why I believe they have no place in the primary classroom. Now don’t get me started on prizes!

These bloggers also run classrooms without grades, do you?

Pernille Ripp – Blogging through the fourth dimension Pernille has many great posts about her views on grading, this is a good one to start with.

 Joe Bower – For the love of learning. Joe also has many great posts, start with this one.

Haley – A minus Haley  has written eloquently about her decisions to give up grading,

Leave a Reply


  1. David Stonestreet

    Henrietta, does your school include any course grades on school reports?

  2. Yes David we do. It is a government and school requirement that we report using an A – E scale. I meet with the students in my class individually and together we assign the letter grades for their end of year reports. We spend a lot of time reflecting on our work in my classroom. I often find that they are harsh on themselves, by that I mean they will assign a C where I might have them recorded as a B. In which case we discuss and agree on a B. It is rare to find a child who does not know where they fit.