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Covid-19 Education Education Reform Equity and Justice

Grading During Covid-19

This article takes on the ridiculous stance that all students should receive a grade of A during the pandemic. Students should get the grades they earn.

Grading Policies During Covid-19 are Cheating Kids!

I’ve seen several grading during covid-19 policies.  I think you should see them too, so you know exactly where I’m coming from in analyzing these policies.  According to an amny.com article Success Academy has opted to keep their A-F grading system in place, while NYC DOE has plans to adopt a new grading system that moves away from the A-F system. Success Academy has its flaws, but their schools perennially outperform 98% of all schools in NY State.

I am perfectly fine with them taking the lead on this, while the rest of us use their ways of being as our best practice in this work.

NYC Adapted grading scale.

Outside of NY, I’ve seen the following:

  • Texas, state officials, while providing guidance, are giving jurisdiction to the local school districts to make the decisions. 
  • Detroit Public schools, teachers will be giving feedback, but not assigning letter grades, according to the Detroit Public Schools website.
  • Washington state, in a 5-2 vote, teachers will be allowed to give an A or an incomplete. No wonder the murder hornets showed up and showed out. A policy like this is murdering kids.
  • San Francisco, all A’s were approved, and the rescinded days later.
  • What are you doing in your district? Is a fair and equitable way to assess the district’s most vulnerable students?

The Subjectivity of Grades and Grading Policies.

I have heard this argument before, heck I’ve probably lived through it. Teachers have always used grades as a way to exhibit their control over students. Teachers that have inadequate behavioral systems use marks as a way to manage their classroom. These were all things that happened pre-covid 19. One could make the argument that the grading criteria for those teachers that I mentioned will now improve. You can objectively assess a student and not weaponize the usage of grades. Nonetheless, we have a system that’s built on A-F from K-16.

A pandemic like covid-19 can get you to rethink the subjectivity of grading, but to move away from it in its totality is an admonishment to learning.

Picture of grading guidelines during covid-19.

Survey the Students.

When in doubt, ask the students. They will give you any feedback that you need to improve. Be careful what you wish for, though. Students and their brutal honesty aren’t for the faint at heart. Moreover, ask students how they would like to be assessed. You’d be surprised by the responses. Students want to improve.  If we set the bar lower for them, then we are essentially cheating them from maximizing their potential.

Some will Dismiss This.

There will be some educators that will question the merits of this blog. They’ll say, I know what’s best for my students. That’ll be those teachers that are not amenable to feedback. I know exactly who they are, how? Because I was once one of them. I thought I knew my kids better than the research, and sometimes better than their parents. I was wrong. 

Rather than have you make the same mistakes I made as a teacher, I blog so you don’t have to go down that road.

Some will say, “Kids are Brainwashed by Grading Systems. “

I’ll reiterate my previous point, students respond to what they know. If we are talking apathy in the age of covid, why change things? All of a sudden, and F student, is now an A student with the same effort that they put in to be a failing student. Sounds absurd when you say out loud right? Yet there are some camps that are trying to indoctrinate this practice as best practice. I think you do more harm than good by incorporating a method such as this into your pedagogical toolbox.

Again, kids deserve your very best, and not to be too critical of your practice, but handing out A’s like school lunches just isn’t going to cut the mustard.

Standard A-F Grading scale.

Assessment as a Love Language.

Students should know where they stand at all times. If you can gainfully assess students, provide them with rigorous feedback, by all means, go for it. But please do use this time to hand out participation trophies. Having students all A’s during this pandemic is essentially telling everyone they’ve won for the participation alone.

Be Fair to Students.

That’s unfair to those students, and they deserve better. So, if your answer to the dilemmas that exist from grading during covid-19 is to assign A’s shame on you arbitrarily, giving meaningful feedback while monitoring growth gets you the “side-eye,” but given the situation, I’ll take what I can get. Assessments, when used correctly, enrich the lives of students. There is no better instruction than instruction that is informed by data. Data-informed instruction is smart work. All other approaches may seem helpful, but none are more important than allowing the data to guide how you instruct students.

In closing, if your school district isn't making decisions that consider the most vulnerable students in your school district, I don't know how to say this, but they got it wrong. Like 100% wrong, and they deserve an F in red marker because they have failed those kids.

By Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

Mr. Ankrum is the current Superintendent of the Riverhead Charter School. Mr. Ankrum has gained notoriety as a school turnaround expert. He is enthusiastic about helping students from low (SES) find ways to end generational poverty through educational advocacy. If you believe PoC can end generational poverty by exercising educational opportunities, you have an ally in @Mr_Ankrum.

One reply on “Grading During Covid-19”

In the Washington Unified School District which services a small suburb just west of the California state capital, they are keeping the A-F grading system and some HS teachers have even issued new syllabuses (I wish I could share). I think the amount of work is challenging but doable. It’s a good way to make sure that students and parents stay involved and have some accountability towards pursuing student education. On the other hand, giving students all A’s indirectly gives individuals permission to focus on mental and emotional health because there’s less expectation to be productive in the usually designated areas of life. Involving the student and parent more in education and making allowances for focusing on mental and emotional health are both areas that have always needed improvement.

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