Should Schools Regrade Students During A Pandemic
As a result, they may just be given “pass” or “fail” grades, or they may be given more tolerance in the evaluation process.
Here’s what some of my fellow classmates had to say.
I believe that schools should change the way they grade students if they have the backing of a majority. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that the manner in which students are taught and learn will alter as a result of the pandemic?
Everyone would agree that no student really enjoys studying these days (to be completely honest!). We can study in the comfort of our own homes, which is fantastic, but we are unable to administer tests or examinations in the same comfort. Even if the examinations are held a month or so later and in our schools, do you believe kids would be able to do well on the exams while under the stress of a pandemic outbreak? Without a doubt, no!
Everyone agrees that safety is the most important thing. And the fact is that students like me will be returning to school in July to sit for upcoming Board examinations (for the time being, at least; we’ll see what happens!). While at school, students are unlikely to be as conscientious about following safety precautions. And this is probably reflected in the behavior of us, adolescents, and it is unlikely that we will be able to alter it any sooner. What we can alter, though, is the way things are done.
So, if we are going to administer examinations from home (which is the ideal situation), schools will not be able to award marks in the same manner, and this is fairly self-explanatory. Isn’t it true that grownups are fearful of the epidemic, so should we be? What sort of compensation do you think we should get if we’re delivering examinations during a pandemic?
Some students are experiencing a different home experience than others. Everyone does not have the same level of access to technology, a quiet location to work, or parental support. And this has always been the case, but distant learning has made the inequalities between the two much more obvious, as well.
Is it really necessary to continue evaluating pupils in a manner that puts them all on the same playing field? Is it time to totally abandon the concept of grades and diplomas.
As part of our “Homeworked” series, we spoke with Moriah Balingit, a Washington Post education reporter, Jack Schneider, an assistant professor of leadership in education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who also serves as the director of research for the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment, and Tanji Reed Marshall, director of preschool-12 practice at The Education Trust.
Gabi Holzer, a coming senior from Hyattsville, Maryland, and Ryan Arruda, a rising sophomore from Dartmouth, Massachusetts, shared their perspectives on their experiences studying online.
No student should be denied a chance to succeed.
In the event of a pandemic
A growing number of students throughout the nation are advocating for their schools to implement a universal pass system, claiming that online courses unfairly discriminate against disadvantaged pupils.
Unlike some of her peers, Gabriela Rivera did not have the option of escaping to a vacation house when she was forced to leave her Brown University dorm earlier this month.
She knew several students who were able to complete their homework without interruption, despite the fact that schools throughout the nation were closed in order to prevent the spread of the corona virus. The closing of the school meant not only returning to her family’s home in Miami Beach, Florida, but also taking up a part-time work as a translator for a paralegal office to assist her family stay afloat financially. During this time, her dad had been put off from both of his jobs; her mother, who was an essential worker at a shipping plant, had her hours cut in half; and her uncle had caught the coronavirus. “It’s been a little difficult,” Rivera said. “At the moment, education is not my primary concern.” In terms of academics, I’m doing just enough to get by and avoid falling behind schedule for graduation.”
As a result of the epidemic, millions of college students are being compelled to complete this semester’s courses online, exacerbating inequalities that were previously alleviated by campus resources. In comparison to students who are experiencing the effects of the pandemic in their home countries, students who are fortunate enough to return home report that they encounter much less barriers to effectively complete their courses over the internet. For a variety of reasons, including unstable Wi-Fi, sick family members, food or financial insecurity, or the time commitment required to educate younger siblings, many students are concerned that they will not be able to achieve the same grades that they would have earned on campus.
Some institutions, such as the University of Maryland, Duke University, and the University of California–Davis, have introduced the option for students to take courses for a letter grade or a variant of pass/fail in order to relieve this load. Others, like as Columbia and Yale, have done away with letter grades entirely this term, with all courses being graded as pass/fail.
Students throughout the nation, however, like as Rivera, believe that the pandemic’s consequences should not result in any students failing their classes. So they’re lobbying for their schools to adopt a “universal pass,” which would remove letter grades and ensure that every student completes the semester, regardless of academic achievement.
So far, petitions have been started by students at more than 100 institutions throughout the nation. A group of Yale students petitioned their institution, becoming the first in the country, to establish a universal pass/fail policy.
They also served as mentors for students at other universities who were attempting to campaign for the policy on their own campuses. Students from other universities, such as Northwestern University, quickly followed suit. In response to student petitions, the faculty senates at certain institutions, such as Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University, approved universal pass/fail rules in late March, encouraging widespread implementation.
Students who support UP say that online learning puts disadvantaged students at a disadvantage, particularly those who are juggling child care responsibilities and other jobs, dealing with unreliable technology or health issues, or dealing with family crises, among other things. They further claim that online courses do not properly assess a student’s capacity to succeed, particularly in the absence of the plethora of on-campus resources that are often accessible..
“I’m now enrolled in organic chemistry,” Rivera said. For her, online learning is not an option for this particular course. “I believe it is a tactile-visual experience that necessitates in-person participation.” Rivera, a sophomore studying neuroscience with aspirations of attending medical school, said that the transition to online learning has been difficult. Although my instructors have attempted to make themselves more accessible, nothing is the same on a computer screen as it might be face-to-face, next to a blackboard, according to the student.
Rivera’s and other similar institutions have rejected the use of unweighted percentages (UPs), arguing that students need letter grades to demonstrate improvement, to boost GPAs that may have suffered if the student struggled in their first year of college, and to qualify for graduate, medical, and law programs.
Brown University Dean Rashid Zia said in an e-mail to students that letter grades this semester, even if just in one class, may demonstrate students’ perseverance in the face of hardship and help them gain access to future chances. “The aspirations and worries expressed by these kids are quite genuine, and they speak directly to how education can change our own lives as well as the lives of others in our surrounding communities. As a result of these considerations, we have decided against a “universal pass” or an obligatory S/NC system.
Some institutions, such as Harvard Medical School, have said that they would accept a pass/fail mark from the spring 2020 semester, but that they would prefer a letter grade if students were given the opportunity to choose. Other institutions, such as the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, have said that they would accept pass/fail marks without regard to the student’s academic performance.
Ahmed El Sammak, a junior at Cornell University, believes that colleges should be more concerned with their students’ well-being rather than their grades. His analogy is social distancing: people are staying inside not to defend the ordinary American, but to safeguard those who are most susceptible to harm. He claims that UP is no different. It is important for campuses to safeguard their most vulnerable students even if other students may choose not to participate in UP.
Under the banner of Big Red Pass, El Sammak and other Cornell students have been advocating for UP for the past year. The group has organized students to flood faculty email inboxes with messages in support of the policy, collected signatures on a petition supporting the policy, and encouraged those affected by the pandemic to share their stories on the movement’s Facebook page.
Cornell’s student body and assembly both decisively decided to establish a universal pass/fail option, but the Cornell Faculty Senate voted against the motion in early April, leaving the decision in the hands of the university’s administration. After a few days, the university management decided to extend the deadline for students to enroll in a class that was either pass or fail.
The administration’s reaction has left student organizers feeling betrayed and unsatisfied. “The opportunity to make academics your top focus this semester is a luxury in [and of] itself,” El Sammak said. “I believe [Cornell’s] administration failed to take into consideration the concerns of individuals who are dealing with much more urgent problems.”
The students at schools where a pass/fail option has been introduced are still hopeful that the choice will be made universal so that they do not have to worry about whether or not selecting it would be helpful or harmful to their grade point average. A junior at the University of California–Berkeley expressed similar worries, stating that the only way to preserve the high intellectual standards that Berkeley and other schools demand of their students is to switch to a universal pass/no-pass system.
Students aren’t taking advantage of the situation since it’s a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. It’s not like they’re slacking off at these moments.” “They’re concentrating on a variety of different topics,” Mercier said. According to him, “If you look at [some of] the Ivies, [some of] the top research universities such as MIT, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt, they have all adopted the universal pass/no pass policy, which indicates that they recognize that students are having more difficulty with this.”
Georgetown University students have attempted to petition for a “Double A” policy, in which every student would get an A or an A- in their courses, but have been unsuccessful. In place of letter grades, the University of Guam has implemented a satisfactory/credit/no credit alternative for students who want to avoid them. Students such as Nicolo Ferretti, president of the undergraduate student body at George Washington University, said they support UP because they believe that no student should be penalized for failing amid a worldwide epidemic.
In this time of hardship, universities “must be sensitive toward their students,” said junior Ferretti. “Everyone is suffering, and some individuals are experiencing a lot more than others.” As he pointed out, “you have to assume the best intentions,” which is part of the Jesuit value system that Georgetown openly supports and constantly stresses, “you have to assume the best intentions.” According to the professor, “If someone is battling for something, if they’ve worked hard to come to Georgetown and shown a dedication to learning in the past…you have to believe that [student] wants this because they have a genuine reason.”
Rather than her capacity to think critically or intellectually, Rivera, the Brown student, believes that this semester demonstrates her ability to adjust to a new environment, rather than her critical thinking or intellectual abilities. As a first-generation college student from a low-income Latinx family, she hopes that universities such as Brown, which she says takes pride in its diversity and publishes pictures of minority students on brochures and application materials, will recognize the needs of its most vulnerable students during the pandemic and respond appropriately.
‘The strength of your community is only as strong as the people who are most vulnerable,’ Rivera added. It’s also important to remember that if you’re not safeguarding your most vulnerable people, then there is no community.”