Unpacking unconscious bias in grading: readers react

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One of the most-viewed articles in Educational Leadership’s September issue is an interview on anti-racist grading with Cornelius Minor, a lead staff developer with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. In response to questions from EL’s Sarah McKibben, Minor cautions that equitable, learning-centered grading is not something educators can just pick up from an “activity playbook.” Instead, it starts with “examining the biases that [we] bring into schools and the discriminatory ideologies and structures that lead to” harmful instructional practices.

Minor identifies three pernicious educator ideologies that often warp grading, particularly with respect to students of color: the expectation of what students should know (as opposed to working with students on the basis of what they do know); the presumption of transactional gratitude (holding that students have an unspoken debt to teachers); and the weighing of deservedness (when student proficiency is conflated with behavior or compliance). By uprooting these interiorized perspectives, Minor suggests, educators can begin to focus on the real purposes of grading—helping kids grow and meet desired learning outcomes.

Minor’s thoughts on this topic have generated some strong responses from our readers, including urgent calls for educators to re-examine their presumptions in the new school year. Here’s a selection:  

As you can see, the piece has clearly struck a chord. Minor makes some incisive points on classroom bias in a back-to-school season in which issues of racial justice are paramount. And, perhaps more important, he provides a compelling framework for educators to challenge—and adjust—potentially maladaptive thinking and practices. How might Minor’s ideas inform your approach this school year or shape professional- learning discussions in your school? Be sure to check out the complete interview and other stories on grading reform in EL’s September issue.    

About the author

Anthony Rebora is the editor in chief of Educational Leadership.

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