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Grading for the Pandemic Term

April 14, 2020 am30 1:11 am

How are we going to do it? That’s a great question. Soon the UFT will meet with the DoE to shape guidance to schools. This would be a great moment for teachers to weigh in, which is exactly what a group from Francis Lewis has done here. I actually was invited to sit down with them (metaphorically, I’m not allowed in the same room as them irl today), but could not make it.

But after they were done, I looked at their notes, and thought, I like these. I’d like to change some stuff.  So that’s what I’ll do. First comes their suggestion, then mine, then some of my thoughts. You should express your opinion, too. The more voices, the better.

Proposed Grading Policy for Spring 2020 (from several teachers at FLHS)
We agree with the mayor that now is a time to show compassion for the students we serve. We understand that they and their families are suffering from enormous stress, anxiety, and perhaps even the loss of loved ones. We understand some of them lack sufficient technology to participate. We therefore propose the following policy for the remainder of our school year:

1. Do no harm. Wherever students were at the time schools were closed, we agree not to lower their grades. We cannot penalize students for circumstances beyond their control.

2. Teachers shall have flexibility to use either numerical grades, or pass/ fail options. Students who may have been on the cusp of passing and show promise can receive a P as a grade. High achieving students entering or applying for colleges can still get grades of 98 or higher, for example. Teachers will have wide latitude in raising student grades for excellent work or participation as they see fit.

3. Classes based on cumulative learning will do a thorough review in September 2020, and teachers will not expect full mastery of 19/20 school year topics by that time.My suggestions:

My (jd2718) suggestions for grading (notice I am not starting from scratch – mine is the easier job)

I agree with the mayor that now is a time to show compassion for the students we serve. I understand that they and their families are suffering from enormous stress, anxiety, and perhaps even the loss of loved ones. I understand some of them lack sufficient technology to participate. I therefore propose the following policy for the remainder of our school year:

1. Do no harm. Wherever students were at the time schools were closed, we agree not to lower their grades due to circumstances related to the school closures. We cannot penalize students for circumstances beyond their control.

1a. Classes should compensate for lost opportunities to add to grades. Many students are able to raise their grades through work in the classroom. Daily reading quizzes, participation, and board work are three ways that some teachers allow to students to add to their grades through diligence or enthusiasm. We should encourage schools and classes to be creative in identifying new such opportunities.

2. Schools shall have flexibility to use either numerical grades, or pass/ fail options. Schools may choose a P/F system, or a letter grade system or a numeric system, or some hybrid. For example, a school might choose F/P and single digits for grades of 90 and above. another school might choose ABCDF. And another school might give individual teachers flexibility. Schools should involve all stakeholders in these discussions, and choose a system that is consistent with the school culture.

3. Classes that have a natural continuation next year face a special challenge. Less material will be taught. First, schools and teachers should look for units that can be dropped this spring. Second, schools and teachers should look at material that can be dropped from the course next fall. Third, schools and teachers should look at setting aside significant time at the start of the Fall for review. And fourth, schools should set aside time for teachers of spring courses to meet with teachers of the corresponding fall course in September

My explanations of some of the differences.

1. There’s a difference between many many kids who are suffering through this, and who are not able to keep up the normal level of work, and, here’s my example, a boy who has used the crisis to choose two classes that he no longer wanted to attend. Good news, I finally reached him today. But the point remains, his grade is currently falling, and he can correct it by straightening up.

1b. There are students who balance off weaker test scores with better participation. It wouldn’t be fair for participation to go away, while the tougher parts of his grade got built up.

2. I think this is good as a school level decision.

3. New York is plagued by course that are a mile wide and an inch deep. The Regents, with its implicit curriculum, makes this problem worse. But this June there are no Regents. This is an opportunity to shed some unnecessary work, and focus on fewer areas. Our last (not first) resort should be to jam in more material.

So what do you think?  What do you think about the Francis Lewis suggestion? About mine?

Make suggestions, share this post, keep the conversation going.

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