No Grades, No Problem! Or Is It?
Initially, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. we believed that schools would be closed for a few weeks. Well, here we are. Those 2 weeks turned into 2 months. Those 2 months have now turned into the remainder of the school year continuing online learning. There is even some uncertainty about whether students will return to school in the Fall. Another school closure extension will create a bigger problem than previously anticipated. Students have already lost so much time with classroom learning.
Coronavirus School Closure Guidelines
The initial Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) remote learning guidelines did not require face-to-face interaction between teachers and students. Lesson plans and assignments were sent to students via email, to be completed during what we thought would be a short break from school. These lessons and assignments could not be strictly enforced by teachers and were considered optional. The DESE also “…recommended that academic content be graded as ‘credit/no credit’ so as to incentivize continuous learning while acknowledging the challenging situation we face. Specific high school guidance on grading and graduation was forthcoming” (Riley, 6). Completed work was given a “check” or “no check” and high school students’ grades were put on pause for the time being.
Also, because many parents and guardians were working from home, the burden of home school learning had put much pressure on them. So, the DESE recommended online school hours equal to half the time of a regular school day. This was a temporary solution, but remote learning still proved to be unsuccessful at times because students were not being given feedback according to the traditional grading scale.
School Closure Extension
On April 20, schools received a more structured approach. “With the extension of remote learning through the end of the school year, we want to expand on this recommendation to encourage districts and schools to promote students to the next grade level, an action supported by research” (Riley, 6). Schools are able to promote students to their next grade level; however, it’s likely that they will not be starting off the year with the usual curriculum. So, we have now turned months of what would have been targeted mastery level learning into passing students along regardless of where they are in the curriculum.
No matter what, it will be difficult for administrators to guide their staff. It will be hard for teachers to know what curriculum to execute in September. And it’s hard for students to complete their assignments without the traditional constant direct feedback. Needless to say, while we originally thought a no-grading approach was necessary, it has created a larger problem instead.
The DESE and school districts have done their very best to supply families with the support they need. They are working as fast as possible to find our new normal. However, we need to truly understand where our students are and what they still have to learn. We need to be prepared for their next grade level in the Fall. Here are some resources you can use at home to better understand the skills your child has already mastered this school year and what they still need to learn:
- Khan Academy – (Focused mastery level learning in math)
- EDinformatics – (Access to state released standardized test materials)
- K5 Learning – (Math and reading assessment)
- Math-U-See – (Math online placement tool)
For more supplemental learning tools, check out our related blog post.
Time to Reassess
Doing away with grades made sense at the start of remote learning. Now is the time to gradually assess and check in with your child. As best as you can, use the school closure extension to your advantage. There are no real guidelines or rules for this. Try your best and I promise you, this will save you a lot of headaches in the long run!
Riley, Jeffery C. “Guidance: Strengthening Our Remote Learning Experience.” Learning at Home, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 24 Apr. 2020, www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/learn-at-home.html.