Capital outlines plans for grading students in remote learning

DOVER — Since schools were temporarily closed in mid-March and then later entirely turned to remote learning, districts have been playing a game of adaptation.

Capital School District discussed its plan for grading during remote learning at Wednesday’s school board meeting, based on recommendations from a committee of about 25 people that included teachers, academic coaches, administrators and parents.

Moving forward, the third marking period is extended through the end of the year. With that, grades from Jan. 21 through the end of year will be included in the third marking period. That grade for the quarter will be counted twice, as marking period three and four for high school students.

For students in pre-K through eighth grade, Capital is using a trimester system and the district is favoring a “hold harmless” approach.

“We are trying to help student grades versus harm them, but there is some capacity for accountability and that’s where this committee, especially with grades nine through 12, are looking at that additional accountability,” said Gene Montano, supervisor of instruction for the district. “We’re going to continue to follow up with parents and do what we need to do to engage them because we are looking at options at how we would evaluate the students at the end of the year for transition to the next grade.”

Work done in distance learning should not lower the combined grade from marking periods three and four, he said. Make-up work done for prior assignments should only raise grades, and students will be given flexibility in completing make-up work, he added.

The committee, Mr. Montano said, recommended no final exams for the year for high school students. (Separately, AP exams are scheduled for May 11-22 online, and dual enrollment courses continue with colleges.)

The school board did vote last month amending policy for grading for the remainder of the year, but that did not include cutting final exams. Superintendent Dan Shelton requested that the board meet again this month to vote on whether to approve that change of requirements, as it was not included as an action item Wednesday.

Thus far, the district — like many others — has been teaching review material since schools first went remote. With school buildings closed through the rest of the year and learning completely at a distance, plans for rolling out new material are underway. For Capital, that’s phase four of the district’s pandemic plan.

Board member Sean Christiansen asked the district to define a “hold harmless approach.”

“There are rumors out there that other districts are giving a pass. I know we start … new learning in phase four, but being a father of two, pushing the issue of, ‘You need to attend your classes, you need to do your homework,’ and they’re hearing, ‘Hold harmless approach,’ or ‘districts are giving a pass,’” he said. “What are we doing? Are we grading? Are we being held accountable? Are our kids getting what they need to be successful the next year?”

Mr. Montano noted that students can drop their grades if they are not engaging in the material and doing the work. They can lose up to 5 percentage points for lack of action at the high school level. He noted that they are still determining how to consider promotion and summer school benchmarks for the other academic grades.

“They’re going to be held accountable,” he said. “But we are trying to help them by allowing them to get work done that they didn’t necessarily do third quarter and bring their grades up these past three rounds of work that we’ve had, up until this fourth round.”

Board member Joan Engel brought up concerns about the students the district hasn’t connected with since students left their schools in the middle of March.

Dr. Shelton noted that there are still students the district hasn’t contacted — about 5 percent overall — and the district is still making efforts to communicate.

“I’m just really concerned about students that we haven’t reached still because they’ll have lost so many months worth of work,” Ms. Engel said. “I’m just concerned. I don’t believe in failing them for missing this, but I’m afraid they’ll be starting at such a deficit [when we] get back.”

As they move back to a traditional school setting in the fall, Mr. Montano said that the district knows it has work ahead of it — interventions, extra support and reinforcement to see where the students are when they’re back in the buildings.

“We are working on planning that out, in addition to looking at the data we currently have to see where the kids are and what types of reinforcements, remediation or supports they’re going to need to have,” Mr. Montano said.

Mr. Montano also noted that the district is still looking at options for summer school, but is waiting on guidance from the governor.

Meanwhile, other districts are also making decisions at the local level on how to move forward on grading. Caesar Rodney expanded its third marking period through the rest of the year.

The district also explained that, at the secondary level, students can earn up to 100 points in remote learning based on effort and engagement. The number of points they earn determines what will be added to their final third marking period grade. The district also cut final exams for the year.

At the elementary level, students will receive feedback on work they submit, and students can receive credit by turning in missing assignments for the third marking period. The first three marking periods will be averaged together for a final grade.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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