Off The Mark: How Grades, Ratings, & Rankings Undermine Learning (But Don't Have To) w/ Jack Schneider & Ethan Hutt

February 17, 2024
Balancing the real with the ideal, Jack & Ethan chart a path toward the possibility of doing grades, transcripts, and testing differently.

“Let's start with the bad news.” is how the conclusion to my guests’ book about changing grading practice begins. “No one is coming to save us. No consultant is going to sweep through and fix things for a fee. No new technology, digital, online, or otherwise, is going to change the game.” The game, of course, is school, and the currency of that game is grades.

Their 2023 book, Off the Mark: How Grades, Ratings, and Rankings Undermine Learning (but Don’t Have To), is a thorough, and at times frustratingly pragmatic, exploration of flawed necessity of the load bearing pillars of “real school” – grades, transcripts, and standardized tests – their origins in our nation’s history, the distorting effects they tend to have on the outcomes and goals of education, why nothing has arisen so far to replace them at scale, and why there are no magic potions: “No one is going to wake up one morning and realize that the answer was staring us in the face all along,” they remind us.

Balancing the real with the ideal, they also chart a path toward the possibility for something different, and like the grand experiment of public schooling itself, it’s something we’ll have to figure out and build together.


Jack Schneider is Dwight W. Allen Distinguished Professor in the College of Education at the UMass - Amherst. He is the Executive Director of the Beyond Test Scores Project. Director of the Center for Education Policy. Co-Editor of the History of Education Quarterly, and Co-Host of the Have You Heard Podcast.

Ethan Hutt is the Gary Stuck Faculty Scholar in Education and associate professor at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Education.


Off The Mark

Jack Schneider

Ethan Hutt

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