The future of grading: When failure is not an option

Even before Covid, many teachers and school and district leaders had concluded that the traditional grading methods were failing students.

Those methods often didn’t measure what students had learned and discouraged them from trying. Now, struggling to re-engage students, teachers are questioning assumptions and old habits and trying new approaches.

In this roundtable discussion, EdSource’s John Fensterwald, Anne Vasquez and Carolyn Jones spoke with California educators and leaders who are immersed in the process of re-examining grading to explore questions such as:

  • Why are they changing how they grade?
  • How this changes the dynamics in their classroom and how how they maintain rigor?
  • What it takes to make such a change?

Read more about this roundtable.


Douglas Reeves

Author on leadership and education

Douglas Reeves is the author of many books and more than 100 articles on education and leadership. His most recent book, “Fearless Schools,” helps schools build trust and resilience at every level.

Twice named to the Harvard University Distinguished Authors Series, Doug has worked in 50 states and more than 40 countries.  Doug received the Contribution to the Field Award from the National Staff Development Council and was named the Brock International Laureate for his contributions to education. Consulting Magazine named Dr. Reeves as one of the top five leadership consultants in the United States.

Doug’s volunteer work includes The SNAFU Review, publishing the essays poetry, stories, and artwork of disabled veterans, and Finish The Dissertation, providing free support for doctoral candidates around the world.  Doug Tweets @DouglasReeves and blogs at  He lives in Boston.

Mauricio Rangel

Science teacher at Overfelt High School in East San Jose

Mauricio Rangel is in his 9th year teaching overall and 6th year teaching science at Overfelt High School in East San Jose. He has always fought to humanize his students as he believes that every individual in his classroom comes in with their own story and deserves respect. This led him to want to reconceptualize his grading practices and wonder how he can best meet the needs of his students while still holding them to high expectations. His dream is to see all of his students become productive members of the community and hold positions of influence so that they can be the decision makers.

Nidya Baez

Assistant Principal at Fremont High School in Oakland Unified

Nidya Baez is a proud graduate of Fremont High School and a supporter of Oakland Public Schools. She returned to teach in Oakland and currently serves at her alma mater as Assistant Principal and co-teaches the Civic Engagement course. She believes that partnering with youth to have a rigorous hands-on academic experience will lead to the elimination of violence in East Oakland.

Lynn Rocha-Salazar

Senior Improvement Coach, CORE Districts

Lynn Rocha-Salazar serves as Senior Improvement Coach. In her role, Lynn is responsible for supporting school districts in equity-based reform initiatives and continuous improvement efforts. Lynn brings 30 years of education experience to her role with CORE.

Her career in education includes serving as a classroom teacher, Resource Teacher, Program Manager, Vice-Principal on Special Assignment and Principal. As a site leader, she has been directly involved in developing an aligned instructional system based on the Common Core State Standards and championing the needs of Special Education students in the regional program at Ayer Elementary.

Most recently, Lynn has mentored teachers in continuous improvement efforts, developing and fostering partnerships with key stakeholders to address issues of equity and access in support of African American and Latino students. Lynn is credited with the development of specific enabling conditions, that fostered the adoption of improvement principles. Lynn has been active in the Association of California School Administrators serving in several capacities including Board President in Region 9. Lynn’s focus is to champion the work of Improvement to disrupt the inequities that have historically persisted in our systems to improve the lives of the students we serve.

Guadalupe Alvarez-Smith

Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, Lindsay Unified School District

Guadalupe Alvarez-Smith’s passion from education comes from her experiences as a daughter of migrant immigrants. Education has been the evolution of her life and her passion is to help other immigrant children break the barriers of poverty. Guadalupe’s passion is to inspire others around her to pursue their dreams and goals.

In her role as Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, Guadalupe supports new learning facilitators in lesson design, classroom management, performance based planning and content delivery. Assists with the creation of an independent study curriculum k-12, and supports in the approval of the new curriculum to ensure that it meets the differentiated needs of Lindsay Learners.

John Fensterwald

Panel moderator; Editor-At-Large, EdSource

John Fensterwald joined EdSource in 2012. For three years before that, he was founder and editor of the “The Educated Guess” website, a source of California education policy reporting, sponsored by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. For the preceding 11 years, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997. His wife is a retired teacher, and their daughter is a neurology resident at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.

Carolyn Jones

Panel moderator; Senior Reporter, EdSource

Carolyn Jones covers student wellness, mental health and special education. She worked for 17 years as a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, covering government, breaking news, the environment, and other topics. She started her career covering schools for the Sonora Union-Democrat in the Sierra foothills. A Bay Area native, she graduated from UC Berkeley and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune, Hayward Daily Review, Oakland magazine and San Francisco magazine.

Anne Vasquez

Panel moderator; Executive Director, EdSource

Anne Vasquez took the helm as EdSource’s Executive Director in May 2021. Previously, she served as Director of Content and Strategic Initiatives at EdSource. In that role, she helped shape editorial strategy, grow partnerships and expand the organization’s footprint throughout California. Prior to joining EdSource, Anne was an executive at Tribune Publishing, where she most recently served as Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Chief Digital Officer. She previously was the Managing Editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Anne began her career at The Miami Herald and the San Jose Mercury News, where she was an education reporter and later an editor.