An overwhelming percentage of parents, teachers and others involved in raising and educating Arizona kids prefer a flexible approach to grading for students who have been rocked by changes to the learning environment forced by the COVID-19 crisis.
Raising Arizona Kids launched a poll Monday afternoon asking email newsletter subscribers to weigh in on options many students, parents, teachers and administrators have been debating in recent weeks, as it became increasingly clear this semester would be like none other in the history of education in Arizona.
In less than 24 hours, nearly 300 parents responded. Here’s what the numbers indicate:
- 45% of respondents believe grades should stay at whatever level they were before the COVID-19 crisis closed schools for the rest of the year
- 34% favor grading this semester as “pass/fail,” with transcripts explaining the reason
- 21% prefer keeping grading systems intact, with no need to change the approach
We offered respondents an option to provide “other ideas,” and many offered ideas that blended the approaches.
Emphasize the better grades
“Use the grades they had before the school closures as a bottom line and let student work afterward be used only to raise their grades,” suggested Renee Catalano, an advisor in the Glendale Elementary School District.
“Take the highest grade — either pre-COVID or post-COVID closure — so students are not being graded on their learning style,” suggested Valerie Pieraccini, MS, OTR, director of clinic and homebased therapy programs and the Early Learning Center operated by UCP of Central Arizona. Pieraccini has practiced as a pediatric occupational therapist for most of her 27-year career. “The literature … would support the validity of taking that approach,” she added.
Erica Stouten, the parent of a middle schooler and a high schooler, praised the Cave Creek Unified School District‘s hybrid approach: “Teachers are inputting fourth-quarter grades, but you cannot do worse than your third-quarter grades … so you get the best of the two as your fourth-quarter grades,” she told us. Students also have opportunities to improve grades they are unhappy with. “This way, kids that want to better their grades can, and those that are struggling with online learning aren’t harmed by it,” she wrote. “It’s a win-win.”
“Use a blended approach,” agrees Michele Stokes, an ADA compliance specialist in the City of Tempe Diversity Office. “No one size fits all. If the student had good grades before COVID, use them. If grades were better during online instruction, use those. Pass/fail should be used as a third option only.”
Don’t count fourth-quarter grades
Tonya Perkins has two children attending Apache Elementary in the Peoria Unified School District. “Our school, and I’m sure district, is keeping the grades the kids had before spring break, which I agree with,” she shared in a Facebook comment. “There are just too many outside factors going on right now in this unprecedented time. Many people are just trying to survive and may not be able to get their kids online or get them the help they need to supplement or assist with the online education. Grading the work with so much new technology and programs would be so much undue pressure on everyone. I only have two at home but can you imagine those with more kids than that?! I can only imagine how overwhelmed they feel.
But what if your kids have had a not so good third quarter and need the fourth quarter to make it up? “Our school, as I’m sure many others, are giving the kids time to redo assignments to bring their grade up,” Perkins said.
Just end the year and move on
Kayla Barnes believes even a pass/fail grade is not fair to students. “I think everyone should be passed,” she wrote. “If you used the grades they had prior to COVID-19 it would be unfair to anyone who was failing or not doing as well as they would like and was capable of raising their grades by the end of the year with proper support and resources. They would end up with an overall grade that may not accurately project their capabilities, cannot compare to other full years of learning and may not reflect well in the future.
“Pass/fail would be unfair to someone who currently has a failing grade and has had all of their available resources suddenly taken away. I think a blanket pass would be the best option as it allows all students to simply move forward in life. I would expect that the start of next school year will also have to be forgiving as students have been left hanging in all different ways to complete this school year. Honestly, if school could just end early so everyone can have less stress in their lives, I think that’s even better. I home school and am grateful for the lack of disruption in our school year. I plan on going forward.”
Why grade at all?
“I personally think that our whole system of grading student work is outdated and needs to be reformed,” wrote Sue Hegg, program director and owner of Brighter Path LLC, a Sun City-based cognitive training program for children, adults and active seniors. “Letter grades are pointless in reporting a student’s skills in reading, writing, and math. Data-driven information is better in tracking students’ progress because letter grades do not reflect mastery of skills.
“Letter grades are pointless in reporting a student’s knowledge or understanding. Letter grades are based on a punishment system that is emotionally discouraging of true learning and personally deflating, so they do not serve to positively motivate most students. The letter grade system is only one of the multitude of reasons why I chose to homeschool our children. Unfortunately, our system is so embedded in letter grades for college scholarships and sports participation, true reform in even this one area of public education is not likely to change. The values as to what IS learning and what we want from education are so out of whack, that alternatives to public education, like homeschooling, will continue to grow and lead the way in true educational reform.”