NYC parents and activists dueling over school grades amid coronavirus crisis

Parents are dueling over how city kids will be graded this year with schools upended by the coronavirus crisis.

Some are calling for the Department of Education to pass all students regardless of performance and to suspend grades completely.

Natasha Capers of the Coalition for Educational Justice said that students have been subjected to unprecedented stresses this year and should be uniformly passed and promoted without grading.

“We are in a moment of collective grief, sadness and anxiety,” she said. “If we think this hits adults hard imagine being a kid right now.”

Capers said that existing inequities within the nation’s largest school system are being exacerbated by the COVID-19 chaos.

“There is no way to have an equitable grading system under these conditions,” she said, stressing the lack of adequate devices for remote learning in many homes.

Others have called for a blanket pass or no pass structure across the board for the year, also without the issuance of grades.

But some parents are demanding that the DOE preserve performance grades while taking the remote learning disruption into account.

Most elementary schools currently assess kids on a 1 to 4 grading system while high schools either use traditional letter grades or a 0-100 points format.

Deborah Alexander of Community Education Council 30 said that the DOE shouldn’t nullify the performance and efforts of teachers and students prior to the system’s closure.

“Scrapping everything that happened up until March is a nonstarter,” she said. “It would be completely unfair and demoralizing not only for students but for teachers as well.”

Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education, an advocacy group, backed an option that would allow kids to drop their lowest grade from this year’s three marking periods.

The organization argued that kids who have struggled during the remote learning period would be able to remove it from consideration for their overall grade.

The policy “helps all students,” PLACE said in a statement. “It does not penalize them for hardships under remote learning nor does it discount the work they continue to do.”

Others worried that junking grades and moving to a pass/no pass or all pass system would tempt students to disengage from remote learning and jeopardize participation.

School districts across the country have been grappling with the grading dilemma.

A San Francisco school board is pushing to not only pass all students but assign them all “A” grades.

The DOE is still fielding input from parents and Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that he was assessing the issue.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said he hoped for a resolution that would take the earlier portion of the school year into account.

“Teachers, parents and the DOE are all working to craft a fair, citywide grading policy — one that takes into account the many challenges students and their families faced during the COVID crisis, and that also recognizes the work students accomplished during the roughly two-thirds of the school year that took place inside school buildings,” he said.

The DOE is also weighing how to handle entry criteria for the city’s screened schools with the coronavirus crisis having disrupted conventional teaching and grading.

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