© AP Photo/Sara Cline
Maddi Dale focuses on her remote French class in her bedroom in Oregon in October. AP Photo/Sara Cline
- Nationwide, schools have reported record numbers of students with F-grades, amid an unprecedented academic year where many schools have turned to online class because of the pandemic.
- The gaps in academic achievement have disproportionately struck poorer students and families of color because they disproportionately have less access to internet or connected devices.
- Experts are split on whether the alarming number of failing grades during the pandemic calls for schools to revisit whether they should continue using letter grades.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
US schools are reporting massive increases in failing grades – and experts are questioning whether it’s the students who are failing, or the system that’s failing students.
Across the country, schools have reported alarming leaps in students with F-grades in an unprecedented academic year, where many schools have turned to online classrooms in the wake of the pandemic.
In the first quarter of 2020, one school district in Charles County, Maryland, saw a 72.7% increase in failing grades for students enrolled in high school, WTOP reported. Forty-two percent of students in Houston received at least one failing grade in this school year’s first grading period, The Associated Press reported. This past year, secondary schools in Salt Lake City saw a 600% increase in the number of failing students, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
“Obviously we’re concerned,” James Tobler, the president of the Salt Lake City teachers’ union, told Insider, adding that teachers are trying to do their best “under the circumstances we are dealt with.”
“I’ve seen, and a lot of other teachers are seeing the students that would show up and not do the work when we were in person are really not doing the work now,” said Tobler, who is also a high school history teacher.
What would happen if we canceled all grades this year? Experts aren’t sure that would solve things, and those who Insider interviewed were split on what schools and families should do.
Failing grades ‘disproportionately punish’ students with ‘fewer resources and weaker safety nets’
© Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
A child holds a sign that reads, “I can’t learn from a screen,” during a rally held to demand in-person Services for Students with High Needs in Safe Spaces in Boston’s Roxbury on Dec. 13, 2020. Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
The barriers to learning during the pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and Latino students.
In the Chicago Public School District, Black and Latino students reported a 5% drop and 2.4% drop in attendance, respectively, when their white and Asian American peers recorded an even higher attendance this year than prior to the pandemic, The Chicago Sun Times reported.
“I think the pandemic has shown a bright light on the inapplicability and even the harms of traditional grading practices,” said Joe Feldman, the CEO of an education consulting group that leads efforts for equitable grading, noting that traditional grading has “disproportionately harmed students who have been historically underserved and have fewer resources.”
Every school district is handling the pandemic differently. Some are fully remote; some are fully in-person with physical distancing and masks; some are combining hybrid options where students are in-person some days and online others to limit the number of people in the building.
No matter the scenario, students, families, and teachers across the US have expressed frustration and dismay at how difficult learning has been this year.
When so many schools have turned to remote learning, the gap between students who do – and do not – have access to resources has grown stark.
Some families have grouped with other families to form private schooling pods, where a private instructor could cost up to $125,000, Business Insider’s Nadine Jolie Courtney reported.
Meanwhile, data from the Pew Research Center showed more than a third of lower-income families believed barriers like access to the internet would prevent their children from completing their school work. Data from the US Census Bureau showed that Black and Latino families were less likely to own a computer in their household.
“[We] know that students who have fewer resources and weaker safety nets and lives that are less stable and supported are more likely to come late to class,” Feldman said. “[When] teachers are penalizing students, for those things outside the student’s control and is more a reflection of their environment, it disproportionately punishes the students in those situations.”
© Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Priel Paiuk, a fifth-grader in Santa Monica, wants to go back to school saying that online learning is difficult with a lack of focus and constant interruptions with bad internet connections as well as being hard on the eyes. She joined others to protest in front of the Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District on Dec. 17, 2020. Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
A ‘significant shift’ in how grades are used in society is necessary for an overhaul of traditional grading
Experts are split on whether the alarming number of F-grades during the pandemic calls for moving away from letter grades, period.
In an interview with Insider, Michael Gottfried, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, suggested that during the pandemic schools may potentially explore other options like a pass-fail system over letter grades used in the traditional grading system.
Madhabi Chatterji, a professor at the Teachers College at Columbia University, told Insider that grades should not be taken away completely. During the pandemic, teachers need to use grades “to gauge how effective their instruction has been” through online courses, she said.
Tobler echoed Chatterji’s sentiments and said that there would need to be a “significant shift” in how society views grades in order for schools to abandon letter grades. For example, many colleges and jobs look at a student’s GPA to evaluate their performance, Tobler noted.
Regardless of how schools decide to grade their students, Gottfried said schools should “identify patterns” in a student’s academic performance or attendance, and work to support these students in ways such as providing small group tutoring, providing summer school resources, or connecting with parents while taking into account their respective work schedules during the pandemic.
“I don’t want to put this responsibility on teachers,” Gottfried said. “I’d want to put that responsibility on schools and districts to try to determine how do we improve access.”
Schools and teachers are working to reach students to provide individual support
© Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images
Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images
School districts have taken various approaches to remedy the situation.
This month, officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school district, decided to defer any F-grades from the first semester at least until January, the LA Times reported. The school district previously reported that 40% of students were absent on a typical day when schools went online in the spring.
“I definitely know that I’ve had students who have had to stay home for childcare purposes and take care of siblings. They have jobs that have some different hours and miss classes,” Tobler said. “If we can be recording our classes and working with students that aren’t able to be present in class during class times, I think we can make some strides that way.”
The pandemic has disrupted classrooms, and students are struggling to learn in a classroom that now, for the most part, is confined to their laptop screen. With the gaps in access to internet connection, some students are struggling to even log on for class.
“Kids are surviving a pandemic – or they’re trying to survive a pandemic,” Gottfried said. “So let’s support them in trying to survive.”
Read the original article on Insider
Source by www.msn.com