I found more growth in my own practice than I ever anticipated in my first full year of abandoning traditional grading systems.

Ungrading yielded unexpected growth in my students, but perhaps more importantly- in me.

I began this tumultuous pandemic year with an entirely new way of assessing student learning and growth: I went “Gradeless” and jumped entirely into a feedback-only means of assessment.

I have over twenty years of experience teaching English to grades 6–12 in myriad settings: middle school, an alternative high school, two top achieving high schools in the country, and these experiences taught me that while I inspired growth and risk taking in my students, my assessment system was…

The Thinker: Musée Rodin, Paris.

I clearly remember my first English Language Arts teaching job — it was 1996, I was teaching 8th grade in Washington Heights, New York City — we called it Communication Arts then- and I had my students in front of me. We had a novel in our hands, and I thought, ok, now what? We read?

I had wonderful professors in my teacher preparation courses in my undergraduate studies, I had completed student teaching in a high school in Wilmington, Delaware, and I knew we had read plays, novels, short pieces, yet what had I taught my students how to…

My journey to a gradeless classroom started over six years ago — specifically, when I moved from teaching in my district’s middle school to the high school right up the road. I had finished a run of teaching 8th grade for 14 years, and I was ready for a change. My students and I graduated middle school together, and we moved right on up to the 9th grade.

I was shocked by how different the same students I had just two months earlier were when they stepped into my high school class. The students were always asking about points, about…


Theresa is a National Board Certified English teacher, writer, and leader. She strives to promote progressive practices for her teachers and her students.

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