Sunday, October 25, 2020

A new letter grade for the pandemic: E

It is impossible to characterize everyone's experience with teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the world by the novel coronavirus. 

Many teachers are working with unprecedented intensity to craft synchronous and asynchronous instruction that will cover and deliver academic content in an engaging and suitably rigorous way.

But the products of all this time, talent, and energy are not being universally absorbed by the students in the black Zoom thumbnails with muted microphones. There are stories in each one of those blank frames, covering a broad array of situations.

Many of us seem to have students who are completely disengaged. They are on our rosters, but we never see them, they are not in our Zooms, and they do not turn in assignments or take assessments. They rapidly descend into grades that are in the single digits, perhaps up to about 20%. 

But there are some who seem to be somewhat engaged. But their participation is scattershot. They fall below 60%, but remain north of 40%. I am wondering if an F is the best grade for them while schools are wholly shut down or (worse), engaged in the pure partial daycare service that goes by the name of "hybrid".

So what about a grade of "E" for them? Not an "F" grade of fail. But not really a "D", either. "E" for evidence of engagement.

As a practical matter, the best I can do for now is to expand my range for a "D–".

One thing that a number of us are seeing more and more of in our parent-teacher conferences is parents and students who want to take an F for this semester so that they can repeat the course for a better grade next I'm not a fan of that practice. [Side note: Physics and Conceptual Physics are scheduled to be replaced by Physics of the Universe in my district next year, so that practice will be messy.]

I would let students move on with Es. Otherwise there will be a pandemic of students wanting to repeat courses when schools reopen in a meaningful way.

It's just an idea for now. But I wonder if it's an idea that will make more and more sense the deeper we get into the pandemic.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love this idea. Evidence of engagement is a great way to distinguish between the F for disengaged and the F for "it's just too difficult."