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More students than ever got F’s in first term of 2020-21 school year — but are A-F grades fair in a pandemic?

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post |

Students’ grades for the first period of the 2020-21 academic year are now being recorded and we are seeing stories from around the country about an unprecedented rise in F’s.

To be sure, many adults are having a hard time staying focused on their work amid the health and political chaos of 2020, so why would anybody expect young people to be any better? And is it fair to give kids regular A-F grades when nothing has been regular about the way they are living and learning since last March, and won’t be for some time?

Pedro Noguera, dean of the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, said the issue is complicated.

“Ideally, teachers should provide feedback in narrative form so that students receive detailed comments on how they have done and where improvement may be needed,” he said. “This is a lot of work for teachers so it may not be possible in many cases. For students who are motivated by grades, a letter grade may be helpful for encouragement. For students who are struggling, letter grades are unlikely to do much to motivate them to apply themselves.”

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