The Problem with Fulton County’s Grading Policy

By Andrew Wyatt

Ever since the Fulton County Board of Education decided to close schools in an emergency board meeting on March 16,  schools, teachers, and classrooms have had to improvise as to ways to fully educate students while both students and educators remain at home and indoors due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. As a result of  students not attending class face-to-face, the county has turned to online learning as a means to still accomplish the goals of which the classroom seeks to sustain. 

Nevertheless, digital and online learning possesses challenges everyone within the education system continues to face, and for the most part, Fulton County has tried to address these issues as best as possible. However, Fulton County’s updated grading policy in response to the COVID-19 local epidemic still has some momentous issues that need to be solved.

Released in the county’s quick reference guide for parents available on Fulton County Schools website, the district stated that “Student work submitted during Remote Learning will only count if it positively impacts a student’s overall grade as reflected on March 12, the last day of traditional instruction.” 

While this condition is largely agreeable, what the district has failed to mention is that they have asked teachers to not enter any summative grades– major assessments such as tests and projects– into their gradebooks. At first glance this may not seem as an issue, but the effect of what stands behind this policy is that students no longer have a major opportunity to improve their grades. 

Summative assessments in most classrooms typically account for 35-45 percent of a student’s final grade, and usually are the largest category within the gradebook; therefore, by not allowing teachers to enter new grades into the summative assessment category, students lose the option of raising their grades through the category that has the greatest impact on their final grades. This fact further leaves the content taught at the beginning of the semester to disproportionately affect students’ final grades as teachers can no longer test students on the lessons they have been working through since March 12.

In return for teachers not being able to input summative assessments, many have only been able to assign formative assessments, which includes quizzes and traditional classwork. Yet, the major conflict with these assignments is that many students already benefit from high formative assessments scores, so inputting high scores into this category will only marginally raise a student’s grade. In many cases, some students have already earned 100 percent of the points available in this category. So, in a time where teachers are urged to blindly hand out 100s to the students who turned in their work, many students’ grades will remain exactly the same.

Even during this period of uncertainty, teachers don’t have to specifically assess students by handing out tests. There are a myriad of other options for providing summative work that takes less than two hours time including small projects, written classwork assignments, or class discussions involving the target material. These assignments could be explicitly aimed at helping students improve their grades; however, the district has pushed that possibility out the door.

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