Does Grading Matter?

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The other morning Mouse had a quiz in her music book. The boys were already done with school and playing together in the playroom and she wanted to be with them. She reacted in a typical Mouse way- her ability to focus disappeared, she suddenly couldn’t remember things she had known ten minutes before and tears threatened. She missed 8 questions out of 34 and got a 76% on her test which is a C in our grading scale.

I went over the quiz with her to make sure that she had missed things that she did really know, then pointed out that a C is a bad grade when it comes from carelessness.

Later I was talking to a friend on the phone and mentioned the incident.

“Do you grade already?”

“Yes,” I said, “Both the big children have a tendency towards careless mistakes and grading helps them to see where carelessness costs them.”

“Oh,” she said and our conversation moved on.

I thought about it more later and realized that my quick answer was a true one.

Grading is one of those things that is hotly debated by homeschoolers. Many people believe that grading students isn’t the point and that as homeeducators we shouldn’t be striving for A’s but for mastery of the material and I would mostly agree with that idea.

I do think it important to keep in mind that the end of all of this education is to fit children for life and that in life they will be measured and graded and they won’t always get a chance to correct careless mistakes. Grades in elementary school don’t carry the same weight of consequences and can be a powerful tool in encouraging children to avoid carelessness and apply themselves to tasks that they don’t prefer.

Grading is concrete (or is should be) and should only be used in situations where there are clear correct and incorrect answers at least in the elementary years. In later schooling as the subject matter becomes more abstract grading can be used to encourage understanding of subjectivity and value judgements.

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