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Making The Grade: How Should We Assess Students During A Pandemic?

A teacher starts to reset up her classrooms at Freedom Preparatory Academy in Provo, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
A teacher starts to reset up her classrooms at Freedom Preparatory Academy in Provo, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

You know the routine. A teacher teaches. Students learn and study. And then after a project or test, they get a grade.  But the COVID-19 pandemic is making what has always been true more visible. Not every student has access to the same technology or level of support at home. Not every student has the capacity to learn asynchronously.  So why should we keep assessing them in a way that puts them all on the same level — using letter grades and tests?

Some parents, teachers and students have wondered about how we assess students for a long time. Early on in the pandemic, some school districts decided not to drop grades during quarantine. But other advocates say that, especially for low–income students, strong grades on a transcript can be another way for students with fewer opportunities to stand out on a college application.   

How can we evaluate student performance fairly? If we moved away from assessing students with grades, what would alternative methods of feedback look like? 

We talk about it during this edition of our series on K-12 education, “Homeworked.”

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