A Washington, D.C. public educator is calling out the “chaos” brought on by an area school district’s equity-based grading policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A teacher I know was working at a D.C. public high school when the district installed a rule during the pandemic that no grade on any assignment could be lower than 50 percent,” Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews wrote on Sunday.
Mathews said the D.C.-area teacher changed his perspective on the issue, citing that, while he once believed the commonplace grading practice that existed in many U.S. schools was equitable for allowing students who had gotten behind to catch up, he was missing a larger piece of the puzzle.
“The 50 percent rule might not have hurt some schools, but the effect on his was disastrous,” Mathews said.
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Lackadaisical effort and delinquent behavior soon followed, he said.
“It was an insult to their intelligence to believe that our bright, savvy kids wouldn’t soon learn how to work the system,” the teacher said, according to The Post.
“Essentially, with the 50 percent grading rule, if our students completed one or two assignments, they would pass — and they knew it.”
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The problems escalated once students realized they only had to be marked present to receive a 50% grade on assignments, meaning they could show up to class and be marked present, which, according to Mathews, the teachers were required to do, and the students could then act however they pleased.
“[It created] an environment where students can come to school to pop their heads into the classroom to tell the teacher to mark them present, which the teacher is required to do, then proceed to socialize, wander the halls, flirt, fight, walk to the corner store for some food and come back, play games in the gym or atrium, vandalize school property, pop in on the few friends who chose to go to their class, disrupting everyone, and generally live a free and happy life without consequences,” the teacher said.
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He added that other teachers objected to the rule – many as soon as the policy was announced during the pandemic – due to its restrictive nature and potential to hinder instead of help student opportunities.
The teacher Mathews discussed in the piece since left the district to work at an area charter school which does not hold similar grading policies.
“He had moved from the charter to the D.C. district school because it had better pay and benefits. He changed his mind when he saw the terrible effect of being too nice to kids,” Mathews said.
A D.C. schools spokesperson told Mathews that the changes to the district’s grading policy are byproducts of feedback and based on the school system’s “philosophy and values.”
“Apparently the negative reaction from this teacher and his colleagues didn’t reach the district’s policymakers,” he wrote.