Grades, Portfolios, and Competency in the Age of Data

Report Cards from the late 1800s

This article from discusses the fact that the current grading system we have now in most schools - A, B, C, D, F - discourages curiosity and exploration by punishing failure. Why branch out if you're going to get a 'D' on an assignment? Why work harder than needed to achieve an 'A', especially when your peers are achieving at levels far below you?

This is an excellent point, and it's something that Far North wants to address. We are still working on ways of measuring real learning success, and those quoted in the article are right - this is an entrenched, possibly dangerous system. However, levelized learning structures are not always scalable, and other systems leave much to be desired. What are we left with?

In addition to these complications, the Cargenie grading system reaches much further than just the K-12 world. Competencies for post-secondary schooling and some careers measure metrics recorded in this format as well. Something systemic needs to change if we're going to transcend a system that discourages innovation in a world that so values it. The question is, how do we stop talking about it and actually build structures that encourage academic exploration and curiosity?

Photo from Marion Doss on Flickr