New grading system makes a point

Jones’ English Department’s system places emphasis on growth


Stacked books seen in English classroom

In the past few years, the Jones English Department has worked to create a grading system that prioritizes stress-free learning for students.

The goal of “pointless” grading is to shift away from a more traditional grading style into one that focuses on growth over mastery of a subject. 

“In this system, grades are not mathematically calculated using points,” said AP Language and Composition teacher Brady Gunnink. “Assignments are put in the grade book as ‘done’ for full points, or missing. There is added feedback for major assignments which are connected to course goals.”

The majority of the English Department emphasizes taking pressure off of students and adjusting the focus to understanding class content and skills. 

“Ultimately, students don’t have to worry about their points,” said AP Language and Composition teacher Paul Anderson. “[Pointless grading] focuses on how [students] improve over time and how they’re able to take the skills and feedback into account.”

Similar to pointless grading, the AP Capstone program utilizes contract grading: a system focused on recognizing effort rather than quantifying their work. 

“We give students a contract at the beginning of the year within their syllabus about what qualifies as an A, B, C, D, or F,” said Caitlin Miller, AP Research teacher and English Department Chair. “It’s specific to the coursework and is labor-based grading, which … rewards students for the work they’re putting into the course.”

Students feel the changes made to the grading system are positive and are generally enthusiastic about it. 

“It allows students to enjoy the class and content without fearing the possibility of getting a bad grade,” said AP Language and Composition student Sofie Richter ‘24. “It …creates a more positive environment and takes away a lot of the pressure.”

Teachers echo this sentiment, recognizing that grades can sometimes hurt students rather than help. 

“There has been a recognition over the years that grades pump up anxiety heavily in students, which is a major problem,” said Gunnink. “Grades extrinsically motivate in ways that don’t always lead to long-lasting learning.” 

The department is also working towards a more collaborative system between teachers and students in order to foster a better learning environment.  

“There’s a set of guidelines for self-evaluation and teacher evaluation at the end of each quarter,” said Gunnink. “Each semester, the teacher and the student see where they are and usually the teacher and student agree. And if not, there is a conference to discuss the conflict.” 

Overall, the goal is for pointless grading to be a generous system that rewards students for their process, progress, and products.  

“Reflection and revision become the cornerstones of the whole process, and using that reflection to produce better results, better work, and a better understanding of the skill base,” said Anderson.