Grading is a compression algorithm

The objective of traditional grading is to compress information teachers have gathered about a student down into a single score to make understanding the information easier. One of the original reasons for this compression was the limitation on how much information could be shared on a single piece of paper. One of the purposes of comments is to uncompress the grade a bit, so that parents and students have some ideas on how to improve their grades.

This process is used to change the size and quality of pictures as well. Compare the two pictures below, and ask yourself, which one conveys more information?

high quality Low quality


Is there a way we can share information parents and students can understand, while not reducing the information too much?



  • I just finished our first day of arena conferences and I met with 56 families. As I explained my gradeless classroom I only had one parent ask for a more compressed evaluation because he admitted to being busy and not having time to delve deeply into his child’s work. For him my standards based reporting will help. I’m hoping many of the other families find some time to be able to see their child’s uncompressed work. Not all of their work, notes, labs, data, etc. Instead I pointed them all to the kid’s blogs where I either ask follow-up questions about everything we study or where I ask students to reflect on what they are learning. The blogs can be viewed anywhere, anytime.

  • Sounds like an interesting concept, Alfonso.

    This reminds me of the discussion from #edchat this week. How do we get parents more involved in their kids’ education?

    The answer, it seems to me, is to make sure all parents feel welcome and have a way of getting access to all the info. But you always have to ask parents how they want it, and how much is too much.

    In other words, they need to opt in. No pressure either way.

  • That’s it, John. We need to provide the information and be welcoming to parents, but in the end it’s their choice when, how, and how often to take advantage of it. People have busy lives and they prioritize things in ways that work best for them. It’s true of kids too. We providenthe learning opportunities and then it’s up to them to make use of those opportunities.

Leave a Reply

Your email is never shared.Required fields are marked *