Going Gradeless: Part Two

Arusha Times News

Effective assessment is revealing and can provide a more accurate report of students’ mastery than a number on the traditional 100-point scale. Grades are shorthand symbols for much larger descriptors, and with the BC Ministry of Education’s (MoE’s) mandate to remove grades from K-9 report cards, teachers must become more adept at defining learning targets and identifying where each student’s accomplishments are relative to those targets. 

Knowing which learning milestones students achieve requires that assessment tools analyze and then descriptively define learning goals. Developing these assessment resources requires the alignment of so many components, that the work of creating them can not be left to chance.

Teachers are not generally at liberty to earn another degree just to develop their assessment literacy skills. At JKCS, this is the work that we are doing together, largely during our Early Wednesday Collaboration Sessions. The good news is that when teachers work collaboratively on developing their assessment practices, they not only increase their assessment literacy, but they also positively impact student achievement (Hattie, 2009; Moss, 2013).

Learning is a naturally gradual process. When children learn to walk, they start with hand-held baby steps, and through the persistent practice of increasingly complex milestones, they can eventually run, and more. 

This simple analogy illustrates an aspect of the critical work that teachers need to do. When teachers document learning progressions, they are creating a blueprint for instruction and assessment.

Our community recently enjoyed a series of fabulous Christmas concerts. Over the years, performance skills are groomed, and students learn increasingly sophisticated musical repertoires. When teachers create learning rubrics to replace 100-point grading scales, students can clearly identify: 

  1. the skills being taught and assessed, and
  2. how well they are doing relative to the goal of achieving the “Proficient” learning target descriptors.

Consider as an example this draft of a proficiency scale created by Mrs. Visser for her grade 3 music students.

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As mentioned above, when grades are replaced by a rubric with descriptive learning goals, students will be able to identify their accomplishments relative to these descriptors. This benefit is one of the foundational rationales for the BC MoE’s going gradeless mandate. At JKCS it is our goal to capitalize on this mandated requirement by adopting practises that educational research indicates will enrich student-learning outcomes.  

Director of Curriculum and Learning

Wendy Perttula


1 Ken O’Connor and Rick Wormelli; Educational Leadership: Reporting Student Learning (Nov 2011)

2 Ibid