Grading is Capitalist, Racist, and Exploitative

  • Eliminate “traditional” grading scale- with the current grading scale, the margin of “success” is no more than 15%. A four-point grading scale not only increases the opportunity for success, but when combined with the other areas examined here, ensures a legitimate opportunity for success. Averaging (when considered in the context of the parachute graphic) does not accurately represent growth in learning or achievement.
  • Try standards-based grading- establishing a set core of definitive and definable standards is one of the more effective ways to eliminate teacher bias in grading. Having clearly articulated and unambiguous measures for each level of proficiency provides an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and understanding while avoiding ambiguous scales. Eliminate criteria such as originality and creativity from all grading guidelines. It is not equitable to apply objective measures to subjective works.
  • Assessment- consider the different types: assessment for learning, of learning, and as learning. In all three, improvement is seen as a positive and treated as such (this is why we’d choose Student B to pack our parachutes). Improvement > Achievement.
  • Center feedback- ongoing feedback provides greater opportunities for better representations of learning. The importance of a timely, accurate, and responsive feedback cycle cannot be overstated.
  • The 4 Rs- all student works should allow for reflection, revision(s), and resubmission/retake. Place value on the process, not just the final product.
  • The 3 Ps- performance, progress, and process. This is where grading can be highly individualized and differentiated. Each student is gauged by their own performance, progress, and their process against previous works. It is vital to include students in each component of the 3 Ps.
  • Challenge the standards and canon- whose voices and texts are being amplified in our classrooms? Who is missing? Why are certain voices or texts considered “worthy” of learning, but others aren’t? Allow students to challenge and deeply understand the content they will be graded on.
  • Reward critical thinking- rather than expecting memorization and regurgitation of material, engage students in critical discourse that encourages higher-level thinking and application of skills or material (DOK 3–4).
  • Use the Anti-Bias Framework- The Learning for Justice Anti-Bias Framework asks students to consider what they are learning in the context of four anti-bias domains: identity, diversity, justice, and action. This framework allows students to make relevant connections with the material, “allows educators to engage a range of anti-bias, multicultural and social justice issues,” and allows students to understand collective trauma in context.
  • Use Interactive Phase Theory- when teaching about the experiences of others, it is important to recognize in which phase of curriculum implementation our classrooms, schools, and districts are. A meaningful consideration of Interactive Phase Theory will result in a more complete and antiracist presentation of curriculum.
  • Use multiple means of assessment- how might students show proficiency in “outside the box” ways? Do students have more than one opportunity to “show what they know”? Are you open to accepting methods that may be unfamiliar to you and your culture? How can students show what they know, but that you may not have asked?
  • Encourage imagination in assessment- imagination and dreaming should be part of student learning and assessment, as “research shows that the ability to dream and imagine is an important factor in fostering hopefulness, and optimism,” which can counteract the mental health struggles we discussed in the GPA section, above. Create space for students to imagine ways assessment can take place with few limitations and lots of possibilities.
  • Include your students- in grading, in decision-making, in building the curriculum, and in assessment. Empower students to take ownership of their learning and ask them to examine and reflect on their own proficiency (note that we are using “proficiency,” not “mastery”). When students are involved in decisions, we can mitigate trauma and support student well-being, a function of the control and power young people have in their schools and communities.
  • Start with yourself- meaningful grading reform cannot happen without your commitment to antiracism: read research (start with our links and references!), become familiar with systemic data, understand the cultural experiences of your students, acknowledge and let go of your own privilege and power, and surround yourself with peers who will keep you accountable for antiracism work.




ABAR educator, SEED leader, Google-Certified Educator, Teach Plus California Senior Policy Fellow working toward culturally-affirming schools |

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Nadia Moshtagh Razi

Nadia Moshtagh Razi

ABAR educator, SEED leader, Google-Certified Educator, Teach Plus California Senior Policy Fellow working toward culturally-affirming schools |

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