Stories of Empowerment and Success from Educators, Leaders, and Students

Learn about the positive impact of equitable grading practices from the diverse perspectives of students, teachers, and school leaders.


I feel so much less stressed because I know that I can retake my tests if I have a bad day. I feel like my teacher wants me to do well.

Michelle, High School, VA

I really like the minimum grades [of 50%] because it helps me see that I can still pass a course even when I can’t get some assignments done or have a few bad days. It gives me hope. In the past when teachers used zeros I would just stop going to those classes.

Ahmed, High School, CA

It takes me a little longer than others to learn the ideas we are studying. When my teacher grades my most recent work and that has a greater impact on my grade, I feel like my grade better represents what I actually know.

Omar, High School, CA

I think that rubrics can be really helpful if they’re given out in advance before starting the assignment. You can look it over and get a sense of what you need to do to get a certain grade or what you need to do to complete the assignment fully and to the best of your ability. That really helps because it gives students a sense of what the teacher is looking for so you’re not just in the dark.

Serena, High School, VA

There have been classes where teachers don’t dock points off if you turn in something late. I really appreciate that, because there have been some instances where I’ve not done my homework in one of these classes and my friends have offered if I would like to copy off of them and I’ve refused, saying that if I’m not getting any penalties for late work, then I might as well do it myself on my own time and learn the actual content.

Tariq, High School, CA

A grade that made me feel good was in [course], when I did a test and I realized a mistake after I did the test, it was just one mistake and it was honestly kind of disappointing, because I knew what I was doing, but at that moment, I was nervous because of the test. So my teacher said we can take retakes, and it felt good knowing that I knew what I did wrong and what I could do to fix it. And I got an A+ on that [re-]test.

Jamaal, Middle School, CA

The point of the retake is to learn what you got wrong and why you got it wrong, how you can correct that, and just to get better at the topic. A student that isn’t allowed any retakes is more likely to get bored of the class and not want to be there, and they’ll be paying less attention and won’t do as well in that class. But if they’re allowed to retake, they’ll want to learn it faster so they don’t have to keep doing retakes because it takes time to retake stuff and they don’t want to waste time like that.

Bailey, High School, VA

A lot of people don’t think that they’re intelligent because the way that our school measures intelligence is not accurate for all types of learners. And the way that we’re teaching students is not accurate even today. We have lower attention spans than we ever have before and we’re expected to sit at desks and listen to someone lecture. It’s like the way that we’re teaching kids isn’t really an accurate reflection on what it takes to be a good learner. Ask students, “Is this helping you learn?” Reflecting with your class instead of doing the same thing with different students every year and expecting a different result.

Tarin, HS, Iowa


This has caused fundamental changes to my classroom. I didn’t think this work was going to be this big. This challenges what I’ve learned to do as a teacher in terms of what students need to know, what they need to show back to me, and how to grade them. This feels really important, messy, and really uncomfortable. It is ‘Oh my gosh look what I’ve been doing!’ I don’t blame myself because I didn’t know any better–I did what was done to me. But now I’m in a place where I feel really strongly that I can’t do that any more. I can’t use grading as a way to discipline kids any more. I look at what I have been doing and I have to do things differently.

Lucy, High School English Department Chair, CA

I used to think that grades had to be zero through a hundred, right? Everything that I ever grew up on was just a zero to a hundred grading system, so I figured that’s the way it was done. If it’s not broken, why fix it kind of mentality, but now I believe that the grading system just seems a little bit unfair, a little lopsided in favor of the failing grade versus in favor of the passing one. The majority of the grade is an F versus the passing grades that only makes up, what, 30% of it, so it’s not a really great split.

Phil, Middle School History Teacher, NM

I have a different outlook now on how I want to grade and how I want to use it. Last year it was almost a punishment: “Oh, you didn’t do the work, now you have a bad grade.” Working with Crescendo Education Group has really changed my perspective. The professional development helped me realize that the main purpose of grading is to see how much the students know, to assess their learning instead of assessing their efforts; do they really understand the work, as opposed to did they do all of the assignments.

Cathy, English and History Teacher, CA

We’ve been talking about supporting teachers in authentic collaboration for decades. This equitable grading professional development was the only experience I’ve had that was authentic collaboration.

Seth, Math Teacher, IL

This has pushed me and all of the teachers to be more equitable and transparent. Students at the same school should be able to have the same grading system, be able to understand that grading system, and know exactly how it supports learning.

Jaime, History Teacher, CA

When I tried out new grading strategies, my students saw that it was not ever too late to succeed, and there were fewer failing grades. I also had fewer A’s because procedural compliance and homework completion no longer inflated grades.

Kim, English Teacher, VA

What surprised me was that I actually changed my mind on some grading practices that I have been using for 8 years!

Sarah, High School Science Department Chair, CA


There is a much higher percentage of passing grades and meaningful grades: the kids know why they got them and the teachers know why they gave them.

Kate, Superintendent, CA

Our learning activities [in the leadership workshops] were strategically designed and brilliantly executed from beginning to end. I loved seeing other principals in our cohort enlightened by our discussions, and I’m sure we’ll see a paradigm shift in our school leaders. Thank you for granting us this experience and feeding the needs of principals. I can assure you that the knowledge I’ve gained has and will show up in my practice.

Valeece, Principal, DC

The most significant outcome has been a pedagogical shift among teachers, viewing grades not as incentives or punishments, but as tools for communicating students’ knowledge and abilities at any given moment. This approach ensures students feel supported and understand how to improve their grades.

Lindsay, Assistant Principal, CO

I have been impressed with our facilitators and the way that they prepared for our sessions. They bring many experiences to their facilitation, and more importantly, they work with us like we should be working with our teachers: listening to us and helping us learn for ourselves, and if we start to wander off our learning objectives, they gently bring us back, reminding and focusing us on our goals.

Kevin, Superintendent, WA

Now I know why students kept using the word ‘unfair’ in my course evaluations. This approach offers a way for my struggling students to catch up. Students expect a change when starting college—I can think of no better change than to introduce them to a rigorous grading system that encourages studying for the sake of learning.

Evan, College Professor of Civil Engineering, CA

With over 75% of our staff transitioning to the 4-point scale, and potentially more to follow suit this year, along with a growing number of teachers exploring proficiency scales, we are witnessing an inspiring level of curiosity and collaboration among our educators.

Barbara, Vice Principal, CA

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