Off the Mark: How Grades, Ratings, and Rankings Undermine Learning (but Don’t Have To) (Hardback)
  • Off the Mark: How Grades, Ratings, and Rankings Undermine Learning (but Don’t Have To) (Hardback)

Off the Mark: How Grades, Ratings, and Rankings Undermine Learning (but Don’t Have To) (Hardback)

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Hardback 296 Pages
Published: 08/08/2023
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Amid widespread concern that our approach to testing and grading undermines education, two experts explain how schools can use assessment to support, rather than compromise, learning.

Anyone who has ever crammed for a test, capitulated to a grade-grubbing student, or fretted over a child’s report card knows that the way we assess student learning in American schools is freighted with unintended consequences. But that’s not all. As experts agree, our primary assessment technologies—grading, rating, and ranking—don’t actually provide an accurate picture of how students are doing in school. Worse, they distort student and educator behavior in ways that undermine learning and exacerbate inequality. Yet despite widespread dissatisfaction, grades, test scores, and transcripts remain the currency of the realm.

In Off the Mark, Jack Schneider and Ethan Hutt explain how we got into this predicament, why we remain beholden to our outmoded forms of assessment, and what we can do to change course. As they make clear, most current attempts at reform won’t solve the complex problems we face. Instead, Schneider and Hutt offer a range of practical reforms, like embracing multiple measures of performance and making the so-called permanent record “overwritable.” As they explain, we can remake our approach in ways that better advance the three different purposes that assessment currently serves: motivating students to learn, communicating meaningful information about what young people know and can do, and synchronizing an otherwise fragmented educational system. Written in an accessible style for a broad audience, Off the Mark is a guide for everyone who wants to ensure that assessment serves the fundamental goal of education—helping students learn.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674248410
Number of pages: 296
Dimensions: 210 x 140 mm


A probing history and analysis of our most pervasive but largely unchallenged assessment technologies: grades, tests, and transcripts…everyone would do well to read this book’s honest and layered picture of what we’re up against. - Jeremy T. Murphy, Teachers College Record

A detailed and thoughtful critique of contemporary ‘assessment technologies’—grades, tests, and transcripts—and some suggestions for reform. - Glenn C. Altschuler and David Wippman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If you want to understand how tests, grades, and records of student performance end up eroding classroom learning, Off the Mark is the book to get. A remarkably useful guide for teachers, administrators, parents, and wannabe reformers, it explains not only how tests, grades, and transcripts have chipped away at classroom learning in the past, but also what some schools have done now to curb their effects. - Larry Cuban, author of Confessions of a School Reformer

Visitors from another planet would find themselves bewildered by the crazy-quilt set of assessments currently used in our educational system. The good news: No need to reinvent from scratch. Original and useful, Off the Mark provides food for thought and plans for action. - Howard Gardner, coauthor of The Real World of College: What Higher Education Is and What It Can Be

In Off the Mark, Schneider and Hutt offer timely and tangible considerations for re-examining the information we rely on to support and measure success for students and schools. Whether you’re a teacher grappling with the question of how to provide effective feedback on learning progress to students and families or a family or community member troubled by the lack of dimension and perspective in our broken school rankings, this book is key to navigating a better way toward equitable, robust, asset-based assessment that will inform and support student success. - Becky Pringle, President of the National Education Association

Off the Mark is a timely account of the uses and misuses of standardized tests, grades, and transcripts. The authors offer several pragmatic ideas about how these deeply embedded measures can be revised to lessen their power. - Diane Ravitch, author of Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools

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