NAIS Equity Design Lab (EDL)

NAIS Equity Design Lab

Registration for the 2024 NAIS Equity Design Lab: Grading for Equity is now closed.

2024 NAIS Equity Design Lab: Grading for Equity
July 10–12, 2024
NAIS Headquarters, Washington, DC

The NAIS Equity Design Lab (EDL) is a leadership and professional development experience that encourages participants to use and share design principles, action research, collaborative 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 inside and out of the classroom.

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 grading?

To lead the 2024 EDL, NAIS is pleased to join forces again with Joe Feldman, noted educator and author of Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms. This three-day institute will explore how our continued use of traditional grading practices often unwittingly reinforces century-old beliefs about students' academic and intellectual capacities, perpetuates opportunity gaps, creates more stressful classrooms, and unintentionally rewards students with more resources while penalizing those with fewer material and financial supports.


This highly interactive institute will synthesize education research and practical classroom-based experience to address these questions:

  • Why is improving grading critical to ensuring academic excellence and equity in our classrooms?
  • What century-old beliefs drove the creation of many of our current grading practices? How does the continued use of those grading practices often thwart effective teaching and learning, focus students on points instead of learning, add to their stress and anxiety, and undermine our equity work, thereby perpetuating the very racial and economic disparities we seek to interrupt?  
  • What grading practices are more accurate and bias-resistant and build students’ intrinsic motivation to learn?  
  • What are common challenges and effective strategies to successfully integrate these practices into our classrooms and schools?  
  • What is action research and how can it illuminate the results of trying these more equitable grading practices and support policy development? What helpful kinds of qualitative and quantitative data can we collect without overburdening ourselves?  
  • How do we bring these ideas to our school and lead system-wide change, while balancing teacher autonomy with an imperative to make our grading more equitable in every classroom?


Participants will:

  • Understand the 100-year-old history of current grading practices and recognize the ways these grading practices undermine equity, learning, and teaching.
  • Reflect on previous experiences and beliefs about grading and the implications they hold for equitable grading.
  • Learn the three Pillars of Equitable Grading and the accurate, bias-resistant, and motivational grading practices.
  • Examine and anticipate the challenges and opportunities involved in implementing equitable grading.
  • Gain greater clarity on how these practices can be implemented in classroom contexts across grade levels and subjects.
  • Develop strategic plans to build teacher learning and capacity to implement more equitable grading practices in schools in 2024-2025.


Equity Design Lab designers recommend that participants register in school teams composed of both teachers and administrators (maximum of five participants per school team) to ensure more diverse perspectives and to promote more productive planning and cross-role coordination. While many teachers have autonomy over their grading practices, the grades those teachers assign—and students’ and families’ experience with receiving those grades—do not exist in a vacuum; administrators need a clear understanding of equitable grading to support faculty, communicate effectively to caregivers, and to lead schoolwide change.

In addition, each head of school and division director will be invited to participate in a pre-institute Zoom call to gain an overview of the institute content, specific outcomes to expect, and specific ways to leverage their investment during the 2024-2025 school year.

Within this context, EDL is a robust professional development experience for:

  • Teachers,
  • Instructional coaches,
  • Curriculum directors,
  • Instructional support staff,
  • Diversity directors and educators,
  • Academic deans,
  • Heads of school and division heads, and
  • Other faculty and leadership from NAIS member and subscriber schools.

Registration Information 

Registration for the 2024 NAIS Equity Design Lab: Grading for Equity is now closed.

Registration Pricing Early Bird Pricing
(Through 3/27)
Standard Pricing
(On or After 3/28)
Member Price $1,525 $1,750
Nonmember Price* $1,975 $2,200

*Contact us for more information about the benefits of NAIS membership, including discounted event pricing.

Hotel Accommodations

NAIS has reserved a block of rooms at the discounted rate of $189/night (plus tax) at the Yours Truly DC Hotel (1143 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20037). Book your room here by June 10 to get the discounted rate. To adjust the dates of the reservation, click on the dates themselves and a dropdown calendar will appear for the appropriate selection. As a reminder, the program will take place at the NAIS Headquarters and is within a short walking distance from the Yours Truly hotel.   


Programming will take place from 8:30 AM ET–3:00 PM ET each day. Schedule is subject to change.

Day 1

  • Welcome and Introductions
  • Why Grading? Why Grading for Equity?
  • History of Grading and Its Impact on Teaching and Learning
  • Grading for Equity: Introduction to the Three Pillars
  • Equitable Grading: Accuracy Pillar
  • Close to Day 1

Day 2

  • Welcome to Day 2!
  • Equitable Grading: Bias-Resistance Pillar
  • Equitable Grading: Motivational Pillar
  • Close to Day 2

Day 3

  • Welcome to Day 3!
  • Listening to Students’ Experiences with Grading
  • Imagining Possibilities for Equitable Grading in Your Classroom and School
  • Listening to Teachers on their Equitable Grading Journeys
  • Challenges, Possibilities, and Approaches for Equitable Grading Systemwide
  • Equitable Grading Strategic Plan Development
  • Close to Institute

2024 Faculty

  • Joe Feldman, CEO, Crescendo Education Group
  • Courtney Fenner, facilitator, Crescendo Education Group, and former director of equity and inclusion, Maret School (DC)
  • Caroline G. Blackwell, vice president, equity and justice, NAIS  
  • Tony Hernandez, project and training manager, equity and justice, NAIS

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations must be received in writing at this email address: [email protected]. Cancellations received up to 30 days (June 10) before the program's start date will be fully refunded, less a $75 administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 30 days prior to the program will not be refunded.

Contact Information

Please contact [email protected] or 202-973-9700 with any questions.