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Council Urges Teachers To Limit Use of Grades To Assess Writing

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Pittsburgh

Teachers should refrain as much as possible from using grades to evaluate students' writing, the National Council of Teachers of English voted at its annual meeting here last week.

"Grading serves no educational purpose,'' said Marilyn Cooper, an associate professor of English at Michigan Technological University and a sponsor of the resolution on writing.

"Students have to learn to take responsibility for deciding what they want to do with their own writing, and the whole relationship is undermined if in the end you say, 'B,''' Ms. Cooper said. "A teacher at the same time cannot be a coach and an evaluator.''

The resolution, which was unopposed here, mirrors growing interest nationwide in alternative ways to measure student performance. A number of schools, for example, have abandoned traditional grades in favor of report cards that describe students' progress or their strengths and weaknesses in particular areas.

Teachers could use narrative evaluations, written comments, or conferences to give students feedback on their writing, the authors of the N.C.T.E resolution suggest.

Ms. Cooper acknowledged, however, that, for most teachers, these methods would be time consuming and difficult to implement. High school educators, in particular, are often required to produce grades so that students can meet graduation or college-entrance requirements.

Moreover, school districts that have tried some of the same methods on report cards, such as the Los Angeles school system, have run into some opposition from parents.

"Most writing teachers, when they hear about this, say, 'Thank God, but isn't it a little idealistic?''' she said.

To assist those teachers, the resolution also calls for a task force to investigate alternative evaluation methods.

The 5,500 teachers who attended the conference also approved a resolution calling for students to read and discuss literature in their classes on genocide and intolerance. That resolution was spurred by a recent Roper survey in which 22 percent of students said it was possible that the Holocaust in Europe in the 1930's and 1940's never happened.

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