An article today from Slate.com: The Case Against Grades, by Michael Thomsen, spells out everything that’s wrong with the 116-year old A-B-C-D-F system, in no uncertain terms. I’ll quote liberally from the article because it’s so good, but please, click though and read the whole thing. A sampling:
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the rigid and judgmental foundation of modern education is the origin point for many of our worst qualities, making it harder for many to learn…
- students’ willingness to take on challenging tasks diminishes when grades are involved (Child Development, 1978)
- without grades, students left on their own tend to seek out more challenging problems (Learning and Individual Differences, 1996)
I was all set to comment about Montessori, as the largest (by far) organized pedagogy which explicitly rejects grades, when I got to this in the meat of the article:
The most famous example are Montessori schools, noted for their lack of grades, multiage classes, and extended periods where students can chose their own projects from a selected range of materials. The schools have educated many of today’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, including Google’s Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales, business management legend Peter Drucker, and video game icon Will Wright.
It goes on, citing Angeline Lillard’s widely cited 2006 article Evaluating Montessori Education:
A 2006 comparison in Milwaukee found that Montessori students performed better than grade-based students at reading and math; they also “wrote more creative essays with more complex sentence structures, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas, and reported feeling more of a sense of community at their school.”
But isn’t Montessori just for those who can afford it? Thomsen is way ahead of you:
Some contend that Montessori schools attract more affluent and successful parents, who give their children an inherent advantage, but the Milwaukee study was built around a random lottery for Montessori enrollment. All the children in the study came from families with similar economic backgrounds, with average incomes ranging between $20,000 and $50,000.
He goes on to describe Summerhill and free schools modeled after it, and I think that’s just fine. That’s the company we want to be mentioned among. Go ahead with the full free school philosophy if you’re ready to go that far. If you’re looking for something equally progressive, a touch more accessible, and quite possibly in your neighborhood or coming soon, check out a Montessori school.