Graphic by Fiona Fitzsimmons
The average weighted GPA of Wilson students has dropped in the past year.
According to Data Coordinator Joseph Bellino, Wilson has seen an average decrease of 0.13 in weighted GPA averages between the first terms of the previous and current school years.
Principal Kimberly Martin attributed the decrease to students and faculty being “tired, tired, tired of their laptops.” Martin also noted that there has been a national surge in failing grades during the pandemic.
In order to combat this, DCPS initiative Learning together to Advance our Practice (LEAP) has been working to help teachers increase student engagement and motivation online, as well as encouraging teachers to implement the grading policy in just manner.
“They’ve been talking about grading equity for the last month as a response to the increase in failures and in the lowering of grades generally.” Martin said.
According to Martin, the initiative has been working to help teachers have a better understanding of how hard it is for some students to get work in on time.
Additionally, to combat the decrease, DCPS’s grading policy has undergone some changes over the course of the pandemic and virtual learning, such as no penalties for late work and the “WS” system. “WS” was created by DCPS for Aspen, which indicates “Waiting for Submission.” Instead of missing work going in as a zero, it goes in as a 50 percent.
According to math teacher and LEAP member Qi Guo, the policy was implemented to serve as a “reminder to students about their missing work and reduce their anxiety level since they don’t see a ‘deep hole’ in their grade.”
“A zero isn’t a reflection of students ability, [the WS policy] gives students the opportunity to still be successful,”English Department chair and LEAP leader Jennifer McLaughlin said.
Additionally, as of the beginning of this year, students have had the opportunity to revise graded work. McLaughlin said the policy was to give students the ability to demonstrate their mastery of a certain subject, not necessarily their comprehension at one point in time.
DCPS also enacted no penalties for late work. “If your grade is measuring student mastery, and not student behavior, then you shouldn’t be taking points off for late work, even though it’s ideal for students to turn in work on time,” McLaughlin said.
In order to increase engagement online, teachers are using more ‘virtual-friendly’ platforms such as NearPod, Padlet, and Desmos.
Teachers have also begun using an ‘equitable engagement rubric for class participation,’ which is supposed to add some clarity to the engagement category for teachers and meant to encourage students to be more reflective of their learning and engagement.
The difficulty with the new engagement category, according to LEAP member and Social Studies teacher David Heckler, is that it lacks clarity and direction. Furthermore, “anytime there’s not clarity in grading, it opens the door up for all sorts of bias, and all sorts of inequity and different interpretations.”
Heckler emphasized that the way students are graded regarding engagement depends on the teacher.
DCPS has been working towards a more unbiased grading policy for a while, however, Heckler believes the pandemic and the overall lowering of grades have been an excelerator.