NAIS Equity Design Lab II: Grading for Equity

Due to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the NAIS EDL II in 2020. 


The NAIS Equity Design Lab (EDL) is a leadership and professional development series. Each lab employs iterative design, mind science and other research, skill-building, and best and emerging practices. The goal is to develop innovative solutions and models that independent schools can use to address challenges and opportunities related to equity and social justice.

Exemplary teaching—the artful blend of content knowledge, zest for learning, and abiding concern for each student and their unique needs and aspirations—is a hallmark of independent education. But what about our grading? Do we grade in ways that support 21st century principles or do we unwittingly reinforce century-old beliefs about academic and intellectual capacity (fixed mindset) and myths related to extrinsic rewards? Do our grading practices unintentionally reward students with more resources and penalize those with fewer supports, thereby perpetuating achievement and opportunity gaps? How can good teachers expand their repertoires by upending grading practices that undermine their best intentions?

Equity Design Lab II: Grading for Equity is an expertly guided examination of the knowledge, skills, mindsets, and practices necessary to improve learning for all students, minimize grade inflation, and become a lever for creating stronger teacher-student relationships and more caring, engaging classrooms.

This three-day interactive workshop will synthesize education research and practical classroom-based experience to address:

  • Why is improving grading so critical to ensuring academic excellence and equity in classrooms?How did we arrive at our current grading practices, and what were ideas and beliefs on which they were based? 
  • How do current grading practices thwart effective teaching and learning, convey misleading and inaccurate motivation, demotivate students, and undermine our equity work, perpetuating the very disparities we seek to interrupt? 
  • What are grading practices that are more accurate, bias-resistant, and build students’ intrinsic motivation to learn? 
  • What are common challenges and effective strategies to successfully integrate these practices into our classrooms? 
  • What is action research, and how can action research illuminate the results of trying these more equitable grading practices? What are helpful kinds of qualitative and quantitative data to collect that do not overburden ourselves? 
  • How do equitable grading practices relate to other assessment modalities (narrative reports, portfolio assessments, Mastery Transcripts, etc.). 
Participants will:
  • Understand the history of our current approaches to grading, and recognize the ways in which our continued use of those practices undermine equity and restrict how we want our students to experience learning and how we want to teach.
  • Learn equitable grading practices that are more accurate, bias-resistant, and motivational. And envision the challenges and opportunities of implementing the practices into our classrooms and contexts.
  • Reflect on previous experiences and beliefs with grading, and find connections and disconnections between those experiences and more equitable grading practices.
  • Understand the action research process for teacher-learning, and develop an action research plan to begin a cycle of prototyping, evaluating, and refining the implementation of equitable grading practices.
  • Become part of cohort that implements and tests more equitable grading practices, collects evidence about the impact of those practices on students and our teaching, and shares these experiences with participating colleagues for feedback, ideas, and support.
This Equity Design Lab participants translates into a two-unit course (or approximately 15 hours of professional development). Each participant will be provided a certificate of attendance for this workshop.

Follow and join this Lab conversation on Twitter with #NAISEDL.


Teachers (any subject at any grade level), instructional coaches, curriculum directors, instructional support staff, global education specialists, diversity directors and educators, academic deans, and other administrators from NAIS member and subscriber schools are welcome to attend.