A “point-less” approach to grading


Photo Provided by Ellie Pearsall – Walters points out important concepts to her students during class.

Ellie Pearsall, A&E Editor

    It’s junior year, and you are swamped. Hours of homework pile up night after night, and strenuous AP classes demand more and more from you. Homework becomes routine, another task to check off your to-do list to ensure your grade remains in the ideal zone for college consideration. When did the desire to learn become overshadowed by a number in a grade book? 

    This year AP Language and Composition teacher Stephanie Walters is taking a new approach to grading that eliminates the pressure of perfection that is pushed in many advanced placement classes. After reading Point-less by Sarah Zerwin, a book that encourages alternative grading methods as opposed to the typical point system, Walters was inspired to incorporate more meaningful grading into her class.

    “One of my main goals is to eliminate the focus that so many students have on grades, whether it’s to help them be less stressed about getting a perfect grade or to have them focus on learning the material rather than just trying to get the points necessary,” Walters said. “There’s just been too much focus on  the grade itself.”

    Walters’ new system is based on students setting goals for themselves and making progress. Eliminating focus on specific letter grades can allow Walters to give personalized feedback to each student and focus on personal advancement. However, there was some variation at first in student reactions to the new system.

    “Whenever I talked about it in class, I think a lot of people were stressed out about it- and they said, ‘How am I going to know if I’m learning it right or not if there’s not a grade?’ or ‘I’ve always put so much focus on my grades that I don’t know if I’m a good student or not without it,’” Walters said.

    Walters crafted a letter to send to all of her students to clear up any confusion surrounding the new policy.

    “Their first assignment was to read the letter and to respond to me, and all of the responses I got were really positive. They were excited about it, looking forward to it,” Walters said. “They thought the explanation breakdown helped them a lot.”

    Andrew York, a junior in Walters’ AP Lang class, has already noticed changes in his work ethic. 

    “It is a lot less stressful knowing it isn’t going to be super strict,” York said.  “I do my work in class, and I find myself paying more attention and caring.”

    Walters’ new grading policy introduces a new classroom culture with an emphasis on growth and progress as opposed to on-paper performance. AP Lang students will approach the year with a fresh perspective on personal achievement.