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Schools are using different criteria
to assign fourth quarter grades

By Chris Carola
Special Correspondent

School districts are taking a variety of approaches to fourth quarter and final grading.

A major concern among school leaders has been how to grade fairly, especially when all students haven’t had equal opportunity to participate in online instruction. There is also the problem of absenteeism in distance learning – students that haven’t logged on or haven’t completed assignments. 

Some approaches include:

  • Assigning grades based on assignments completed and student participation.
  • Pass/fail rather than numeric grades.
  • Measures of progress on specific learning standards. 

For final course grades, options include weighting first and second quarter grades more heavily as well as pass-fail and pass-incomplete options. 

Another challenge is explaining grading policies to students and their families. The Shenendehowa Central School District in Saratoga County posted a video on YouTube that describes its plan to focus on continued learning, saying fourth quarter grades will be based on "Evidence of Learning" (EOL) of prioritized standards.

Uncompleted work or work that fails to demonstrate understanding of prioritized learning standards will be classified as "Not Yet Learned" (NYL). Students will be given the opportunity to redo or resubmit work to demonstrate their understanding and proficiency, according to the video.

 "For the fourth quarter, we really shifted gears knowing the reality is that a majority of the quarter will occur with students off-site, which is an entirely different environment," said Deputy Superintendent Elizabeth Wood, who appears in the video. "We know that students’ home circumstances vary greatly, and they don’t have the great equalizer of all being in the same class with a teacher. So, we recognize that some students are really struggling right now, for a variety of reasons."

In Buffalo, guidelines sent to teachers ask them to put an emphasis on first and second quarter grades and "to make targeted plans to support students at risk of not meeting grade level standards." Numerical averages will be used to determine a final rating of outstanding, satisfactory or incomplete.

Grading guidelines sent to Buffalo teachers address "students who have had trouble connecting with the school during this period of extended closure."

"We wanted to make sure any plan we formulated would be supportive of families at this time, recognizing that connectivity can be an issue in some homes," said Anne Botticelli, chief academic officer. "We factored in prior work they did in the first and second quarters because we wanted them to have recognition for the hard work they put in."

In New York City, a new policy sets aside traditional letter grades and directs that no failing grades be issued. Instead, the city’s plan calls for:

  • Grades of "meets standards" or "needs improvement" for students in K-6.
  • In addition to "meets standards" and "needs improvement," an additional grade of "course in progress" for students in grades six through eight. That refers to continuing education in the summer or fall.  
  • Existing grading scales for high school students, with those deemed to need improvement or failing to complete work given extended deadlines and provided with support programs this summer.

Administrators in some districts say simpler will be better for their families. In Newark Central Schools in Wayne County, students probably will get a fourth quarter grade of either pass or fail, according to Superintendent Matt Cook. 

"Philosophically, we’ve taken a do no harm approach," Cook said. "We’re just not able to say with any kind of confidence … that we’re reaching everybody in same way."



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