Degrading vs. De-Grading

There are two features of independent learning that prospective parents need to be aware of, because these features are certainly not a part of the familiar factory school paradigm. There are no grade levels and no letter grades. 

 That may, on the face of it, sound absurd, but this was the norm for most of history. Because students advance through mastery, we can assume they achieved an A on any unit or level in their studies that they have completed; otherwise, they would be still working on it.  A student working on lesson 42 in her math book has already mastered lessons 1-41, and would have received an A if we were passing out grades.

The report card is a relatively new phenomena in education; it made its debut in the late 1890s and was not fully adopted nationally until the 1930s.  It is a component of the modern factory school. Prior to the advent of report cards mastery, not a grade, was the objective. Before report cards came into use, it was the teacher who was graded, and the grade he received was the quality of his graduates. If he graduated students (probably from the sixth grade) who proved to be poorly educated, the teacher was blamed.

Not only were there no letter grades, there were no grade levels as we understand them.  In the past you were not in the third grade; you were simply in Mr. Jones' class. So, in the Independent Learner school, when your child is asked what grade she is in, the response is, for example, "I am half way through the fourth level of math, I am almost in the sixth level of history." Forcing children through the curriculum by grades, according to age and not mastery, is again a modern approach to education and not a very beneficial one.

There is also no grading of classwork, homework, and quizzes.  These things are done where children are spoon-fed their education.  The independent learner is learning independently and is responsible for her education.  The younger and newer students receive much closer observation and guidance between their recitations, as both the teacher and the more mature students show them how to learn independently and how to take responsibility for their education.    

It should also be noted that the typical grading process consumes a fantastic amount of the teacher’s time during class, in the evenings, and on the weekends. It would be much better if all our teachers spent their evenings reading great books and expanding their knowledge in order to be even better teachers. It would be better if the students learned to be responsible for pursuing knowledge and understanding and not simply pursuing the right letters on a piece of paper.