A call for clarity as students struggle to meet standards

High absenteeism and failing grades have plagued high schools during the past 10 months of distance learning, yet many educators are still unclear about how instruction models and delivery methods need to change.

“Many schools have chosen to either fail students or simply pass them through to the next grade,” points out Dr. Caprice Young, national superintendent for Learn4Life. “Both responses fail to acknowledge that no one is at fault for the crises we are experiencing. Flunking students who either lack the technology or the ability to learn while attending hours of online classes isn’t fair. Those students didn’t fail their classes. The situation was simply untenable.”

On the other hand, providing passing grades when the learning didn’t take place robs students of the opportunity to learn the material, she points out. Simply moving students along to the next grade or more difficult subject sets up students for future failure.

Many teens are bored and struggling with remote learning. Teachers are video lecturing to kids who are likely reading at different grade levels, with varying attention spans, special needs or English language challenges. The traditional high school model, of five or six courses with 25-40 students in each class, is difficult to translate to remote learning.

“We recognise that every student learns at a different pace and responds better to various teaching methods,” Dr. Young explained. “Some students learn best in small groups, others with one-on-one tutoring or through experimentation. Others thrive in a classroom model or independently.”

Dr. Young is an advocate of students receiving a no-fault, “incomplete” grade, rather than being failed. It is like incomplete grades given to college students when they miss a significant amount of coursework due to a severe illness, for example. Students are given time to complete their coursework either concurrently with other subjects or during the summer.

According to Dr. Young, this could mean that “students who were lost, either physically or via attention and mental health issues, would be allowed to have a ‘do over’ or ‘catch up’ time” with some students receiving “one-on-one attention for this learning”.

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