Grading Can Be Capitalist, Racist, and Exploitative

Ken Shelton
5 min readJun 9, 2021

Part Three: Inequitable Grading Practices

By Ken Shelton and Nadia Razi

Silver scales with a white index finger pushing down on one side

In order to understand how to sustainably implement equitable grading practices, it is important to understand the inequity of our current practices. As we have touched on previously, any systems or policies that are part of the school game are inequitable by design. They do not account for the myriad of ways learning occurs, how that knowledge and learning can be represented, nor do they account for inherent teacher bias. Striving for equity in grading is to recognize that it’s truly possible to have an equitable grading system that authentically represents knowledge and understanding, despite grading being problematic at its core.

As we further examine grading practices, consider how you assess learning in your classroom. For example, as student works are submitted, are there any ongoing opportunities for feedback, and what is the frequency? Does the submission of an assignment serve as an ending to the learning at that time? In other words, when an assignment is turned in, is the only remaining feedback the score assigned to that turned-in work?

It has been well documented and researched that feedback and reflection are just as critical to the learning process as the work itself. All students’ works, within reason, should include opportunities for reflection, refinement, and resubmission. By ensuring ongoing opportunities for feedback and revision within the learning process, we can foster higher degrees of student analysis of their work as well as encourage learners to ask themselves: “How might this work improve?” “Is this work the best representation of my knowledge and understanding?” In addition, to increase equity within a learning opportunity, consider asking learners: “Are there any questions you were not asked that may provide more insight into your knowledge and understanding?”

Grading Conversations In School

In an attempt to create grading “equity” across our content or grade-level teams, we have agreed upon a set of common policies and procedures, including penalties for late work, use of the standard grading scale (0–59% — F, 60–69% — D, 70–79% — C, 80–89% — B, 90–100% — A), and that class…

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Ken Shelton

Keynote Speaker, TEDx Speaker, AB/AR Educator, Google Certified Innovator, Apple Distinguished Educator, MIEE, Visual Storyteller, (http://kennethshelton.net)