Trends in Assessments and Grading (Week of April 20-26, 2020)

By: Rachel Levitt Klein Dratch
KC Topics: 
Coronavirus, School Policies and Procedures, Instructional Leadership

Week of April 20-26, 2020 : Trends in Assessments and Grading 

For more information, we invite you to contact Amy Wasser or Rachel Dratch 

We have collected the questions trending in Jewish day schools and yeshivas across North America as well as approaches being considered by independent schools across the country.  We do not endorse any one approach. We do encourage all school leaders to use the information below to reflect on what feels right based on your school culture and students’ needs.

*Please note that we recommend school administrators become familiar with county and state requirements around entry to next grade (i.e., transition grades for your school: 6th, 8th or college) and what the testing decisions are for your state regarding standardized achievement tests and end of course exams, as well as IB and AP exams. Here is the link to the College Board updates.

Questions School Leaders are asking:

  1. What is the purpose of grading in my school? What types of assessments are possible, given the current circumstances, and how will that impact what we decide about grading this semester? 
  2. How do we ensure our approach reflects the needs of the individuals in the various divisions of our schools?  Would a differentiated approach to grading and assessment support our learning outcomes? What might this look like in different divisions of our school? 
  3. Is this an opportunity to try something different? What might that look like? 
  4. What do the teachers, students and parents want and need ? What is reasonable and possible?
  5. What are the conversations that need to happen around making these decisions? Who needs to be included to discuss and decide?
  6. In what ways does our approach demonstrate an understanding of the unique needs of our community at this time? 

Once you’ve finalized a decision about grading/assessments, consider the following in your communication to various stakeholders (teachers, students, parents): 

  1. What do we want to communicate about our process and discussion for deciding how to approach grading and assessment to our stakeholders? 
  2. How/when will this be communicated to our various constituents? By whom? 
  3. Who is responsible for fielding questions that may emerge? 
  4. What considerations do we need to take into account when we finalize transcripts and student records? 
  5.  What documentation do we need to have to be sure each student is set up for success in the fall? What type of communication about each student will be expected for this year's teachers to pass on to next year’s teachers

Valuable Resources on Grading and Testing during COVID-19:

Link to NAIS artlicle on grading
Edsurge To Grade or Not to Grade? During Coronavirus, That Is The Question
Independent School Letter (Click on Lakeside Updates: April 16 letter to upper school students)
Education Blog High School Grading
The Century Foundation Academic Testing
Letter from Shalhevet High School LA
ASCD Article on Grading. See p. 43

Approaches Gleaned from the Field:

Type of Grading: For Ages: Pluses: Minuses:
Narrative for each student without grades;  Can include aspects of integrity, dedication, participation and attendance Preschool-elementary school and for any student with an IEP
  • Acknowledges the challenge of completing work without in person teaching and/or not under ideal home circumstances yet also shows value add of teacher knowing each student
  • Time needed to write each narrative
  • This might highlight a teacher’s lack of insight into a student
  • Will there be areas that are impacted by the lack of grades, such as graduation awards or admissions?
  • How might this impact placement in the fall?
Narrative of what the class as a whole accomplished, with a checklist for what each student accomplished Preschool- middle school and can be used for students with IEPs
  • Takes less time to fill out but still has a personal element
  • Shares what was done so it gives a context for future teachers
  • Less personal
  • Does not take into account the individual circumstances of a student
Pass/Fail All
  • Acknowledges difficulty in assigning grades at this time
  • Gives credit
  • May decrease anxiety in students
  • Could be seen as “unfair” to those students who put in a lot of effort and ignores work prior to online learning
  • May impact graduation awards, scholarships or other opportunities
  • How accurate do we feel the assessments are under these circumstances?
  • May not be seen as positive by parents
Pass/Fail/ A Elementary- High School
  • Opportunity to acknowledge exceptional work without penalizing other students
  • Acknowledges difficulty in assigning grades at this time
  • Could be seen as very subjective without a pre-set  and well communicated rubric
  • May open the door for complaints of why I did not receive  an A?
  • How accurate do we feel the assessments are under these circumstances?
Letter grade- no number Middle School-High school
  • Opportunity to acknowledge exceptional work without penalizing other students
  • Acknowledges difficulty in assigning grades at this time
  • Clear, unambiguous communication
  • Gives a broader range of accuracy so there is
  • Some wiggle room
  • Gives credit
  • Not demanding of time
  • May not effectively reflect the level of work even with a letter grade because of the circumstances
  • Change in method of grading may prove more challenging for teachers to employ and elicit questions from students about how grades were calculated
  • How accurate do we feel the assessments are under these circumstances?

Grades weighted 80-20 (80% of grade is pre-March and 20% of grade is post quarantine) 

Grades can not go LOWER than before March

High School
  • Gives clear feedback but acknowledges work has been challenging
  • Protects student achievement from before virtual learning started
  • Allows for grades for credit, awards and admissions
  • How accurate do we feel the assessments are under these circumstances?
Report Cards/Transcripts as per regular school year All
  • Maintains expected school policies and norms and ease for future transfers/graduates
  • Should be based on expectations that have been clearly communicated; without those could be seen as unfair
  • How accurate do we feel the assessments are under these circumstances?