Montessori and Letter Grades
I am often asked by Montessori teachers and parents, ‘when do most schools start incorporating letter grades, if ever?’
Letter grades are comparative models of describing a child's development instead of description.
When teachers assign letter or numerical grades, they are evaluating children either against the other students in the same class, or against an arbitrary external standard and set of expectations. As Alfie Kohn and many others have long shown, this practice of encouraging children to work and compete for high grades originates from the expectations and fears of anxious parents, and commonly leads children to look to teachers for the right answers, instead of thinking and researching things for themselves. It encourages children to do what they must to earn the right grade. In many schools it leads to learning that is shallow; right answers memorized for a test, then quickly forgotten once the grades are announced.
In good Montessori practice, we describe children’s progress to their parents in terms of their individual development in many different areas.
Obviously, many fine schools in great schools have created a highly intellectual culture using competition and high and demanding expectations.
Reprinted with the permission of the Montessori Foundation. © 2007 The Montessori Foundation. All Rights Reserved.
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