Last week we asked a lot of important questions about the state of education while the country is in lockdown from COVID-19, and we asked for our readers’ feedback to be able to draw some broad conclusions. Today, we’re going to talk about a related topic that’s on many students’ and educators’ minds — grading. Specifically, what is the function of grading when our entire educational system is disrupted; when teachers and students are scrambling not just to find appropriate materials and complete assignments, but also to master new distance learning platforms; and when we don’t have all the supports in place to make grades meaningful?
On April 1, 2020, Education Week posted an article entitled “Grading Students during the Coronavirus Crisis: What’s the Right Call?” In it, they tried to evaluate the purpose of grading systems, both in the past and in our current crisis. Overall, grades serve several purposes: “Sometimes grades are meant as motivation, to help spur students to do better. Sometimes they’re supposed to communicate mastery of content to parents. And sometimes, in their most weighty function, they’re used to compare students to one another, as when colleges and universities look at transcripts.”
The article continued: “People will begin to realize they do want feedback, for instance, from their student’s teachers on how their kids are doing. But unless the playing field is equal or they’re getting the same type of supports they usually get, they don’t want that kind of communicative effort to end up living forever on a student transcript.”
- Are grades meaningful markers when we have disruptions that leave each locality to construct its own learning platform, devise its own curriculum and assignments, and overcome its own unique challenges?
- At what point are we able to determine if a student has demonstrated mastery of a topic?
- What do we do when students from low socioeconomic backgrounds have no access to the platforms or in-home parental help with homework and therefore cannot possibly demonstrate mastery?
- What mastery can be demonstrated when students slack off work because they expect easy grading? (See Washington Post article on the “Year of the Easy B” here.)
- And of what use is a GPA when there are no current national standards for colleges to measure one student’s achievements against another’s?
Again, we’re opening up this discussion to our readers. We want to hear your ideas and your opinions on how grades should be handled, locally, state-wide, and nationally. As with last week, you can submit your comments with your name, school, position, and location, or you can do so anonymously. The main points are to contribute to the discussion and to create our own “learning tool” for educating in the best possible way while dealing with COVID-19. We will post the responses when we have them.
 Sawchuck, Steven. (April 1, 2020). “Grading Students During the Coronavirus Crisis: What’s the Right Call?” Education Week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/04/01/grading-students-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-whats.html.
 Matthews, Jay. (May 1, 2020). The Year of the Easy B: How lowering grading standards may punish students.” Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/the-year-of-the-easy-b-how-lowering-grading-standards-may-punish-students/2020/05/01/f97cb206-8898-11ea-9dfd-990f9dcc71fc_story.html.