School officials outline grading plans

GLOVERSVILLE — Gloversville Enlarged School District officials this week outlined plans for grading students at the middle and high school level during the fourth quarter of the year that is being conducted entirely through remote instruction.

Assistant Superintendent James Wager provided details to the Board of Education during Tuesday’s virtual meeting on the grading rubric developed by district administrators and department chairs at the secondary level.

Following the initial implementation of remote instruction as school buildings across the state closed in mid-March under an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the district suspended grading of completed work as both students and teachers entered an unfamiliar instructional model.

Remote instruction initially focused on providing at-home learning opportunities for students and transitioned to more explicit instruction as the school closure extended. District Superintendent David Halloran earlier this spring pointed to the district’s focus on ensuring students engaged with the remote instructional materials while stating that the district would likely implement some method for evaluating students if the school closure remained in effect through the end of the current school year. Cuomo on Friday announced that schools in the state will not reopen this academic year.

Wager on Tuesday said district staffers for the past few weeks worked to develop a rubric to grade work middle and high school students are completing during the fourth marking period that would also account for issues surrounding equity in the at-home learning environment.

“Because of the difficulties of ensuring equity of access to learning for all students, not something that we can guarantee, with the department chairs’ help we developed a rubric that incorporates communication, participation, quality of the work being submitted and are they meeting the standards for the course as prescribed by the state,” said Wager.

Teachers would use the rubric to rank students on a one to four scale from not meeting expectations to meeting expectations with distinction. Wager noted that the rubric would be applied to each student based on their known circumstances.

“It’s a holistic rubric,” said Wager. “It is outside of the box in terms of evaluating student performance for the fourth marking period, but we are in a situation we’ve never been in before. That was the guiding principal, to be as fair and equitable in this to the students as humanly possible.”

The rubric will be used to determine a rating at the end of the fourth quarter of passing with high distinction, passing with distinction, passing or failing. These final ratings will then be converted into a numerical grade through a calculation that will also factor in the student’s average from the first three quarters of the year.

Wager acknowledged that the system is “not perfect,” but said the intent is to provide a system for grading students at the secondary level that aims to “do no harm.”

“The bottom line is essentially to do no harm as best as possible, provide fairness and equity as best as possible in these very challenging times and be transparent about how we get to that final grade which will be numerical,” Wager said.

“The idea in particular is to not do damage to those students who work so incredibly hard to maintain high grade point averages and looking how best to support that number in a third and fourth marking period that have just been unprecedented and crazy, turned upside down for students and teachers. We think we developed a fair system,” he added.

Wager said the rubric and conversion chart for fourth quarter grading will be reviewed by department chairs this week and then with teachers at the secondary level during their next faculty meeting. After these final internal reviews, he said the rubric and conversion chart will be posted on the district website and sent to students and families.

For students at the elementary level, Wager said teachers will assess students based on their remote interactions and assigned schoolwork completed online through systems like i-Ready for inclusion on their fourth quarter report cards. Areas that cannot be practiced with teachers and fully assessed surrounding skills in English Language Arts, reading and math will be recorded on report cards as not applicable.

“We think this is the fairest and safest way to do it for those students and not overcomplicate the process,” said Wager.

Following his report, Halloran commended Wager and district staffers for their efforts to develop a fair system for evaluating students while remote instruction continues.

“We’ve been telling students all along that the work they do matters and we want to ensure, as [Wager] said, that those students who are working hard are recognized for their efforts,” said Halloran.

By Patricia Older

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