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47: Redefining Assessment by Implementing Gradeless Learning feat. Jeffery Frieden, Aaron Blackwelder, & Nick Covington

Ep. 47

On today's podcast, we're looking at the gradeless movement. There's a lot to be debated in the education system, but I'm hard-pressed to find a topic so steeped in research as this one. Whether it be motivation, willingness to learn, and even traditional test scores, not giving a grade shows improvement across the board.

There's countless research articles, books, podcasts, psychologists, education experts, and more writing and studying the effects of grades. And every single time, whether it be 1850 or 2019, it seems to support the same outcome:

  1. Grades diminish motivation and do little to actually provide feedback for students to improve.
  2. If there is research that supports grades, it's stating that they improve standardized test scores, not necessarily motivate or improve student outcomes.


GUESTS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE

Jeffery Frieden, an English educator at Hillcrest High School in Corona, California, and founder of Make Them Master It, an organization aimed at connecting teachers to mastery-based practice and identifying teacher struggle through a podcast, book, and blogs.

Aaron Blackwelder, an English educator in Woodland Public Schools in Woodland, Washington, and founder of Teachers Going Gradeless, an organization aimed at providing resources and connecting educators who diminish or eliminate the use of extrinsic motivators.

Nick Covington, a Social Studies educator at Ankeny High School in Ankeny, Iowa, who promotes progressive education in his own practice including developing portfolio-based gradeless assessments.


RESOURCESFURTHER LISTENING

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124: The City That Kicked Cops Out of Schools and Tried Restorative Practices Instead w/ Andy Kopsa

Ep. 124
I’m speaking today with freelance journalist Andy Kopsa whose work has appeared seemingly everywhere: The New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, Cosmo, and her most recent piece from the December issue of In These Times that we’ll be discussing today - and that you heard an excerpt of in the introduction - is about her investigation of Des Moines Public Schools’ 2021 shift away from the School Resource Officer, or SRO, program and toward investing in restorative justice, it has the incredible title, The City That Kicked Cops Out of Schools and Tried Restorative Practices InsteadAndy had mentioned in a tweet before our recording that “Iowa is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to public education.” That’s to say, so much of what Andy reported in her piece is directly tied to the particular political context of Iowa in the 21st century - as we get into in the episode - failing to address deep dem ographic divisions & whose embrace of endless cynical, dead-end, culture wars has only deepened divisions. Only ⅓ of predominantly older white Iowans live in rural areas, half of the Black population is concentrated in just 4 cities, of which Des Moines is the largest, and nearly 60% of Iowa farmland owners don’t farm. So while Iowa is an increasingly non-white, urban population, our political & cultural identity is wrapped up in the nostalgia of the white rural family farm, a factor which explains the radicalization & consolidation of political power in the Iowa GOP, who hold a majority everywhere Iowans are represented. A headline from the November elections read, “Iowa's GOP clout in Legislature, Congress most since 1950s”, and you better believe they are governing as such. While national headlines often focus on larger states like Texas & Florida, the education culture war really started here. Iowa is the canary in the coal mine. That’s an appropriate lens we should bring to the conversation at the intersection of racialized policing & punishment & the role it plays in our schools, particularly when communities of Color decide to go another way & invest in restorative practices.GuestAndy Kopsa is an investigative journalist whose work has appeared in NYTimes, FP, Atlantic, Cosmo, Al Jazeera, Guardian, Playboy, and more.ResourcesIn These Times: The City That Kicked Cops Out of Schools and Tried Restorative Practices Instead ACLU of Iowa: Advocating for Police-Free Schools Toolkit