Friday, May 1, 2020

Schools Debate Giving Straight A’s to Everyone

It's not so much a debate at my college. The administration recommends that faculty members give students "multiple attempts" on their assignments, so they'll pass these easier, and the school won't lose too many students to withdrawal (which hurts funding levels, which are already getting hammered by the coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn).

But giving out straight A's isn't fair. Students won't study, and the ones who work hard will be penalized, which could hurt their prospects for college down the road.

In any case, at NYT, "Should the Virus Mean Straight A’s for Everyone?":
As high schools approach the end of an academic year without proms or field trips or graduation ceremonies, another fundamental part of American education is being transformed: the report card.

School districts across the country have adopted new grading systems for this semester, driven by concern for students who face hardship from the coronavirus and its economic fallout. Some districts have dropped letter grades altogether, while others are guaranteeing A’s in most cases, or ensuring that students’ performance during the pandemic will not count against them.

But there are places where administrators have encountered stiff resistance to the idea of dropping grades, even temporarily. Some parents and students are concerned about the ability of high achievers to compete in selective college admissions, while others worry that eschewing grades means students will have less incentive to participate in remote learning.

“Are expectations going to be this very fluid line that we keep shifting?” asked Tanji Reed Marshall, a director at the Education Trust, a national advocacy group focused on low-income students and students of color. She warned against “deficit thinking” that underestimates what young people from poor families are capable of, even during a public health crisis.

Over the past few weeks, many public schools have adopted what is called a “hold harmless” approach to grades, including those in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest district. The approach allows students to use the rest of the semester to improve their scores, but their final grades cannot drop lower than they were before schools shut down.

New York City, the nation’s largest district, will still issue letter grades in high school, although students with failing scores will get an “in progress” instead of an F. But they can also opt into a pass/fail system that would not lower their grade point averages, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday.

Across the country, there is no clear agreement on the best approach, with some states, including Illinois, Delaware and New Mexico, urging districts to adopt a pass/incomplete or credit/no credit system, and others like Oklahoma warning that a lack of letter grades could cost students scholarships or harm their eligibility for college sports. And school systems are aware that whatever they do now could set a precedent for the fall, when remote learning might continue.

Nowhere has the debate been more passionate than in the San Mateo Union High School District south of San Francisco...