A Wall Street Journal editorial, “A Coronavirus A for Everyone,” warns of “the potential for arrested educational development” related to decisions by some school districts, in response to the pandemic, to suspend or alter their usual grading policies. Says the Journal: “The pandemic will pass, but what used to be called the soft bigotry of low expectations helps no one but teachers who don’t want to be measured by what their students learn.”
An article by Seth Gershenson in the Spring 2020 Education Next, “End the ‘Easy A,’” reported that tougher grading standards set more students up for success. The editor’s letter in that issue, “In Fight Against Grade Inflation, Those Rare Tough Teachers Are Champions,” expands on that point.
How this research translates to the unusual situation of distance learning in a pandemic is an open question, especially for students in younger grades, when, as a practical matter, a letter grade might be less an evaluation of a student or teacher’s skills, and more an evaluation of a parent or older sibling’s ability, or availability, to home-school a child. But the combination of school districts taking differing approaches to the grading question and the eventual return of state accountability testing (though even that may be in some doubt, according to another recent Education Next article, “Statewide Standardized Assessments Were in Peril Even Before the Coronavirus. Now They’re Really in Trouble”) may help to provide some answers a few years down the road.