Should we really care about grades

Performance evaluation : Grades unsettle children and parents

The first weeks of school have passed and 27 first graders between the ages of five and eight are sitting at the numerous tables. Clara, for example, turned seven yesterday. Her mother works part-time as a doctor. Her father is a well-respected lawyer in an upscale law firm. Yusuf, six years old, from Syria is sitting in the next row. He came to Germany last year with his father and two smaller siblings. The mother is not there - she was shot in Syria in front of Yusuf's eyes. Next to him is Peter, not yet six years old. His father is a police officer, his mother works as a florist. Peter is an only child. Sandra has the seat at the door, mother and father are without training. The family lives on "Hartz IV". Another 22 children, all with different requirements and framework conditions, complete this colorful mix.

Today is now the third rehearsal. The students have learned five letters so far. You should recognize them visually in words and write them correctly in lines. In a further task you should determine whether and, if so, where in a word you hear the letter you are looking for. Finally, with the aid of the sound table, unknown words should be written using all letters. There are additional points to distinguish between upper and lower case letters.

Whether smileys or weather signs - the evaluation is based on the clef

All in all, these are very demanding tasks - but that's the way it should be. The specifications for creating a sample state that the requirements should go beyond what was learned in the classroom. In addition, the assessment should already be based on the clef: There is a one for up to 92 percent of the full points, a two for up to 84 percent, a three for up to 70 percent, and so on.

The little ones do not have a grade on the tests, but there are often points or smileys, or weather signs - from sun to thunderstorm. The parents have to sign, the sample is then filed in the sample folder. During the processing, large white cardboard walls stand between the children so that they do not look at it.

So all these very different children are writing this sample at the same time. Yes, you can do it. It is done, it even has to be done - for decades, in a great many classes, in a great many schools, often several times a week.

But for what purpose? These children are so different - what do we expect as a result? Exactly, there will be a distribution that can also be fully predicted. So what do we get out of it? As good as nothing - we select and prepare the distribution to the secondary schools. But that's it. Because a teacher knows what individual support each child needs even without this test, without spreading fear and pressure. But above all, the children need time. Not time because they're too stupid. But time because they are in a development process.

Children go different ways in learning

The process of learning to read and write, for example, is not completed until the end of the fourth grade - it even says so in the curriculum. But we evaluate and measure for the first time after about three weeks of school. The children don't even get the time to complete a process before they are assessed. We also know that children take different paths when learning that we cannot understand from the outside. It just doesn't make sense to test certain criteria over and over again along the way in order to compare and evaluate - especially if some children have a head start due to their age or better domestic conditions.

But what does it do? We disrupt the learning process! We disturb the inner calm that children need in order to learn and develop well - the inner calm, by the way, even with those who do best in these rehearsals. We make the children insecure. We unsettle the parents. And both children and parents believe that the often inevitable deficit results actually reveal a significant weakness and general inability. This is particularly bad.

When children learn to walk - generally between the ages of nine and eighteen months - it would never occur to anyone to attest a child who has just turned twelve months to have poor walking.

When children learn to walk - generally between the ages of nine and eighteen months - it would never occur to anyone to attest a child who has just turned twelve months to have poor walking. In the event of any particular abnormalities, we would take care and otherwise wait with full confidence to see how things develop in the coming months.

But as soon as you arrive at school, it's different! We measure, compare, judge children who are in the middle of a process, we pathologize them or immediately devalue them entirely. And yes, suddenly not all children learn to read, write and arithmetic, but fail at the simplest of tasks. And yes, suddenly they don't like going to school that much anymore. And suddenly everything becomes exhausting.

That is the problem with our comparative performance measurement for the little ones. We are currently disrupting their fundamental learning and development processes, which are so important, depriving them of the joy of learning and too often conveying false and inhibiting negative convictions about their learning and productivity. In this way, our performance measurement prevents successful learning and healthy development for all children.

What we can do? Let's deal with developmental biology again and design our schools and curricula accordingly. Realizing that we have small children in front of us who are just beginning to discover the world, and not grown-up, already educated people. We should stop measuring and comparing them, but support them individually. Learning is easy and joyful in itself! It is we who make it difficult.