Sunday, April 26, 2020

DOE Grading Policy Is a Big Nothing

It's funny. You build something up. You say it's crucial, vital, the most important thing ever. You say it's coming tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, Wednesday, Friday, next week for sure. Then the thing finally comes out, vetted by multiple committees, after weeks of deliberation, and it's something you could've made up yourself off the top of your head after having drunk one too many glasses of wine.

And here it is, according to Chalkbeat:

It’s expected that the city will announce that no student will be held back as a result of the pandemic. Elementary and middle school students’ work will be graded as “satisfactory” or “needs improvement,” according to details from the forthcoming policy, reported first by NY1.

High school students, meanwhile, will continue to receive grades in accordance with their school’s own policies — with one notable exception: No student will be given a failing mark. Instead, they will receive an “incomplete,” according to the report.

I'm not going to focus on elementary, since I know little to nothing about what they do normally. As for high schools, it appears they placed little or no thought whatsoever into this policy. Just continue doing the same thing, hope for the best, and maybe we'll give the kids an extra chance to pass if they don't do it the first time.

I've seen some people saying that UFT has elicited no input from teachers, and that's not true. Education VP Evelyn de Jesus called me and asked for recommendations. A group of half a dozen colleagues and I spent an hour or two and came up with some, clearly more elaborate than what the DOE sent out. I'm also hearing that, though there were sessions with UFT, DOE pretty much went and put this out without our blessing or input.

Of course, DOE is declining to say officially that these are the policies, so who knows? You send things into Dracula's Castle and they tend not to come out the way you intended. If Chalbeat is correct, and I have reason to believe they are, there are a whole lot of things they haven't considered.

The first one that jumps to my mind is the fact that individual schools have individual grading policies. In our school, each department has its own policy. Our department, at least, gives teachers some leeway into which percentage counts for what. The part that really concerns me is tests and projects. I haven't given a test or major project since we went remote, and I can't honestly imagine how I'd do so. I have absolutely no confidence that I can pull them off.

Last week I gave a small project in which my students had to do presentations. I noticed one of my more conscientious students had notes in her project that she clearly had not written herself. Maybe she wrote them in her first language and had someone translate for her. On another assignment, I had students write a film review. I got one that was clearly not written by the student in question, and a one-second Google search gave me the source.

Before the apocalypse, tests and projects counted for 50% of my class grade. These days, I'd like to reduce that percentage closer to zero. I'd rather give credit for participation, and use that for the crux of the grade. But then, what do I do about students who have legitimate reasons for not attending class?

I don't feel bad for students who've managed to fail the 70% of the year they spent in my class. I haven't seen those students turning this thing around, and I don't agree with people who say everyone should pass. I don't intend to fail anyone who's been passing all year, though.

It's kind of like the DOE deliberated for weeks, delayed everyone in giving a marking period grade, and then finally threw up their hands, saying, "Do whatever, and let's see what happens."

And that's what passes for leadership over at Tweed.
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