You are here

Grading for Equity

Grading for Equity
What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms

Other Titles in:
Diversity | Grading | Leadership

September 2018 | 296 pages | Corwin

“Joe Feldman shows us how we can use grading to help students become the leaders of their own learning and lift the veil on how to succeed. . . . This must-have book will help teachers learn to implement improved, equity-focused grading for impact.”

—Zaretta Hammond,

Author of Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain

Crack open the grading conversation

Here at last—and none too soon—is a resource that delivers the research base, tools, and courage to tackle one of the most challenging and emotionally charged conversations in today’s schools: our inconsistent grading practices and the ways they can inadvertently perpetuate the achievement and opportunity gaps among our students.

With Grading for Equity, Joe Feldman cuts to the core of the conversation, revealing how grading practices that are accurate, bias-resistant, and motivational will improve learning, minimize grade inflation, reduce failure rates, and become a lever for creating stronger teacher-student relationships and more caring classrooms. Essential reading for schoolwide and individual book study or for student advocates, Grading for Equity provides

  • A critical historical backdrop, describing how our inherited system of grading was originally set up as a sorting mechanism to provide or deny opportunity, control students, and endorse a “fixed mindset” about students’ academic potential—practices that are still in place a century later
  • A summary of the research on motivation and equitable teaching and learning, establishing a rock-solid foundation and a “true north” orientation toward equitable grading practices
  • Specific grading practices that are more equitable, along with teacher examples, strategies to solve common hiccups and concerns, and evidence of effectiveness
  • Reflection tools for facilitating individual or group engagement and understanding

As Joe writes, “Grading practices are a mirror not just for students, but for us as their teachers.” Each one of us should start by asking, “What do my grading practices say about who I am and what I believe?” Then, let’s make the choice to do things differently . . . with Grading for Equity as a dog-eared reference.





Prologue: Mallory's Dilemma
Part I: Foundations
Chapter 1. What Makes Grades So Difficult to Talk About (And Even Harder to Change)?
Chapter 2. A Brief History of Grades
Part II: The Case for Change: How Traditional Grading Thwarts Effective and Equitable Teaching and Learning
Chapter 3. Traditional Grading Stifles Risk-Taking and Supports the “Commodity of Grades”
Chapter 4. Traditional Grading Hides Information, Invites Biases, and Provides Misleading Information
Chapter 5. Traditional Grading Demotivates and Disempowers
Chapter 6. A New Vision of Grading
Part III: Equitable Grading Practices
Chapter 7. Practices that Are Mathematically Accurate
Avoid Zeros  
Minimum Grading  
0-4 Scale  
Chapter 8. Practices that Are Mathematically Accurate
Weight More Recent Performance  
Grades Based on an Individual’s Achievement, Not the Group’s  
Chapter 9. Practices that Value Knowledge, Not Environment or Behavior
Grades Based on the Required Content of the Course, Not Extra Credit  
Grades Based on Student Work, Not the Timing of the Work  
Alternative (Non-Grade) Consequences for Cheating  
Excluding “Participation” and “Effort”  
Chapter 10. Practices that Value Knowledge, Not Environment or Behavior (Continued)
Grades Based Entirely on Summative Assessments, Not Formative Assessments Such as Homework  
Chapter 11. Practices that Support Hope and A Growth Mindset
Minimum Grading and 0-4 Scale (A Revisit)  
Renaming Grades  
Retakes and Redos  
Chapter 12. Practices that “Lift the Veil” on How to Succeed
Standards Scales and Tests Without Points  
Standards-Based Gradebooks  
Chapter 13. Practices that Build "Soft Skills" and Motivate Students Without Grading Them
Emphasizing Self-Regulation  
Creating a Community of Feedback  
Student Trackers  
Chapter 14. Putting it All Together: Nick and Cathy
Epilogue: A Return to Mallory’s School
Endnotes and Bibliography

“This book will stop educators  who want to improve their practices with underserved students right in their tracks.  Feldman offers an insightful invitation to teachers who dare change the ways in which we have been taught to grade students’ products.  He demonstrates how our grading practices are grossly under-substantiated and too often unquestioned, and he challenges educators to build equitable assessment tools and mechanisms to support learning and development of all students.  Grading for Equity penetrates macro-level grading policies to transform micro-level teaching practices that embrace the cultural and the contextual.  A must read for justice-centered educators.”

Rich Milner, Co-Author of “'These Kids are Out of Control:' Why We Must Reimagine Classroom Management for Equity"
Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Education, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University

"Wow, Wow Wow!!! This book hooked me as a not-to-be-missed read right from the Prologue. Joe Feldman makes a strong case for shared grading practices to overcome the inequity of traditional grading, with solid reasoning, well-chosen research evidence, and perhaps most significantly, the powerful and frequent use of teacher voice. The chapters’ organizing structure encourages thoughtful and reflective reading, and will be particularly beneficial for book study within PLCs. . . . The main message of the book for me is summed up in this quote, 'We teachers cannot continue to sacrifice the integrity and reliability of our grades at the altar of professional autonomy.'"

Ken O'Connor, Author and Consultant, "How to Grade for Learning"

"There is growing awareness within the industry of education that traditional grading practices have become a barrier to meaningful student learning. One dilemma is that there is a lack of resources to support educators who want to adopt new grading practices that are both accurate and equitable. Joe Feldman addresses this need with his book, Grading for Equity.  Joe skillfully makes a compelling argument for change and offers specific ways educators can make profound differences to their grading practices. Students become intrinsically motivated to learn when their grades accurately measure where they are in the learning process.   Students who typically give up any hope of success can now approach learning with a positive growth mindset.  Grading for Equity will provide clarity and tools for an individual instructor or as a book study for an entire organization."

Jeffrey Tooker, Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services, Placer Union High School District
Placer Union High School District

"Joe Feldman peels back the curtain and shows the many flaws of our traditional grading system. His arguments are convincing - and the alternatives he proposes are both practical and powerful.  Reading this book will make you re-think the way you assess students and will inspire you to enact a system that encourages revision and redemption instead of compliance and corruption. "

Denise Pope, Senior Lecturer, Stanford Graduate School of Education, and Co-Founder, Challenge Success
Stanford Graduate School of Education

"We don’t usually think of grading when talking about equity, but in Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms, Joe Feldman helps us see why grading is an integral part of an equity agenda. He shows us how we can use grading to help students become the leaders of their own learning and lift the veil on how to succeed. He reminds us that authentic assessment and transparent grading are essential parts of a culturally responsive classroom.  This must-have book will help teachers learn to implement improved, equity-focused grading for impact."

Zaretta Hammond, Education Consultant and Author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain
St. Mary’s College’s Kalmanovitz School of Education
Key features

(1) Describes how to implement equitable grading practices that have been tested and refined by teacher, while, at the same time, helps administrators, teachers, and advocates navigate the tricky political and emotional challenges of an equitable grading initiative. 

(2) Provides the reader with a deep understanding of the critical weaknesses of our current grading system and proven strategies to make grading more accurate, fair, and supportive of every student’s learning.

(3) Richly-detailed examples bridge the gap between theory and practice.

(4) Reflective prompts embedded across the book  help individual readers and teams process, synthesize, reflect, and connect with the material.

(5)  Practices have been used by hundreds of teachers across a variety of contexts including classrooms serving low-income and higher-income students, and in elementary, middle and high schools.  

(6) The author has collected quantitative and qualitative data that have generated an evidence-based demonstration of the positive impact of these practices on student achievement (changes in D/F and A rates, and stronger correlation to external measures), classroom environments, and teachers’ sense of efficacy.

Preview this book

Purchasing options

Volume Discounts Available

contact corwin

Please select a format:

ISBN: 9781506391571

Pre-Publication price:


For instructors