School-Wide Policy Change: How Grades and Equity Intermingle

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Christina Trumbull

Effective second quarter, teachers are now following a more flexible grading policy.

Kara Peeler, Editor-In-Chief

With an objective of promoting equity, CHS altered its Grading and Reporting Policy to be more forgiving with late work submissions and to expand its fifty percent rule. 

After being implemented during the second quarter, students are now able to submit any assignment for late credit any time before the marking period ends. Assignments will not lock in canvas unless less there is an alternative available. Additionally, uncompleted work will be awarded a 50% unless two-way communication has been established with a parent.

The updated policy is designed “to create more opportunities for students” and “uphold [the] equity pledge,” according to the informational slideshow and video released to students. 

The whole idea of telling a student once a deadline is past for an assignment that they no longer have the ability to demonstrate learning at all simply doesn’t work,” said English teacher and Acting Staff Development Teacher Christina Trumbull. “It comes back to this inequitable idea of ‘deservedness.’ We are essentially saying that a student does not “deserve” the right to demonstrate knowledge after a certain date.” 

In enacting the policy, other teachers, such as Spanish teacher Laura Hodge, highlight the need for increasing opportunities and opening up doors to success for students. 

“The grading policy changes were designed to benefit the students who need the extra support that they would normally get from the staff in the building to reach their potential,” Hodge said.  

This update of the fifty percent rule raises concerns about unfairly giving the same grade to someone who tried their best and earned a poor grade versus someone who made no efforts. To resolve this, teachers have been instructed to add .01 so that a full-faith attempt is denoted in the gradebook. 

“It is a fine line between awarding points for work that was never attempted and understanding that this is a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and the compassion that that merits,” said Hodge. 

Some fear that the higher percentage acts as an unfair grade padding, but defaulting to a fifty instead of a zero may enable students to take control of their learning despite setbacks. 

I try to remind myself [that] a 50% is STILL failing,” said Trumbull. “I am not handing a student an A for turning in nothing. But what I am doing is keeping a student within reach throughout the marking period to potentially re-engage and have the opportunity to pass.” 

The policy may also, unfortunately, add a burden onto teachers; the policy requires increased time spent creating alternate assignments and flexibility in grading schedules. 

There are other pieces of this moving forward that could still be tweaked to make it manageable for teachers when it comes to accepting work at any point and trying to provide true feedback. Because that’s a lot to put on them,” said Trumbull. 

Teachers are already seeing success stories amongst students, be it small victories or major changes. 

“I’ve seen these grading policy changes work in engaging previously disengaged students in my AP Lit class this past semester,” said Trumbull. 

Students themselves have reported appreciating the policy change, highlighting the need for increased flexibility amongst trouble times.

“My experience with the 50% rule for grading has been super helpful. I try to turn in assignments on time but I like that there is an option to turn things in late just in case,” said junior Logan Garner. “Plus sometimes things can pop us, such as emotional breakdowns, sleep deprivation or family [emergencies].” 

Updating grading policies is one method of prioritizing mental health over enforcing firm rules relating to assignment completions. 

“Especially during this time, mental health is super important and needs to be tended to. A lot of students are swamped with school assignments,” said Garner. “Many students are trying to manage life at home, schoolwork, and stress levels.” 

Despite its support and provisions to struggling students, there is the opportunity for abuse. 

“As with every policy, there are always those who look for the loophole and then use it to their advantage,” said Hodge. 

There are already such occurrences, such as how Trumbull noted that while she has “seen it be taken advantage of as an opportunity to calculate the desired grade and then not complete certain assignments. It’s not perfect.”

Regardless, the administration has reiterated that submitting work on time and completing

assignments to the best of students’ abilities is still optimal in order to keep up with content and properly manage time. 

Moreover, others express that valuing learning is worth far more than focusing on strict grading. 

“We are all living under less than ideal conditions and allowing students to turn in work late is the least of my concerns.  I’m just thankful that the student did the work and hopefully learned something while doing it,” said Hodge. “Every teacher’s goal is to teach the content with hopes that they learn the material, show us that they learned it. and be ready to tackle the next challenge.” 

What matters is not the potential for misuse, but rather the lasting impact. 

My hope moving forward for students and teachers is that we focus on the chance to build relationships and support for those struggling the most and not seeing the point in engaging. If we can turn around for anyone, it’s a win,” said Trumbull. 

The onset of a coronavirus crisis and the need for virtual learning necessitate vast adjustments. Grading policy is just one aspect of many that continue to shift in such unprecedented times. 

“I try and remind myself every day that we are all living in a pandemic and the grades on the report card are not the only thing important in life,” said Hodge.