As we were having our morning conversation around grading yesterday, I began thinking about filling out the annual Alternative Education Campus Application. To be an AEC school, for which we receive additional funding, you have to prove that 95% of the student body have suffered one or multiple barriers to their education, such as homelessness, addiction, domestic abuse, incarceration, pregnancy, you get the idea. In that document one must literally go student by student, mark a barrier or barriers and provide documentation to substantiate that barrier. Every year it is a cold reality check on what our students have been through. Ultimately, you end with a strikingly efficient yet cold document which lays bare the absolute hell most of our kids have endured. Then comes Covid-19. The most severe crisis to strike us since perhaps World War II. And we know this crisis, like most, disproportionately effect those that are most vulnerable, precisely our students. In short a grave situation just got a lot worse. Over the past two years we have focused on equity as a powerful lever which we could use to break through barriers and reach students who have been disenfranchised in their education. It is now more important than ever to use that lever in our course design and grading system. Course Design: As a starting point please consider our students current circumstances and what can be accomplished. When designing your courses and determining which competencies will be demonstrated, I would consider depth over breadth, dialing back the number of times a competency must be demonstrated and creating as many opportunities and modalities to show competency as possible. Also I believe that it is essential that each student is provided with a roadmap that clearly details how the course can be successfully completed. Grading System: It is imperative, the grading system causes no harm and seeks to encourage rather than deter students. Therefore we will follow these guidelines:
- All students will be given the opportunity to determine if they want to have a letter grade or simply credit for each class. Students should be aware of these options and allowed to make a choice when they know what their final grade would be.
- No students will receive a lower grade than the grade they had before the extended break began. If a scenario such as mentioned in yesterday’s meeting comes up, i.e., a student with a B grade who has not engaged in any remote learning, despite the teachers, counselors and administrators attempting to engage the student, that student would simply not receive credit for the class. I expect this to be a limited number of students. We will make these decisions on a case by case basis, and in doing so we will want to verify we did everything possible to engage the student. To that end we should be looking out for these students now, so that we may begin a focused effort to reach out to them.
Ultimately, I believe we must honor the work that students have done, not cause further harm by penalizing students for circumstances for which they had no control and most importantly provide and deploy every resource at our disposal for the students benefit. If you have any questions, comments or concerns please reach out to me. Appreciatively, David Daves