Just To Claire(Ify), Issue 10

Why Grading in the Time of the CoronaVirus is Unethical

I live an unbelievably privileged life. My immediate family comprises a loving father and in quarantine, my sister, and I reside in a safe, supportive household. I have never had to worry about the source of my next meal. My father is not considered an “essential worker” and I spend little time concerned for his safety. I have my own room where I am able to focus on my schoolwork, uninterrupted by the outside world. 

The only distractions in my life from being a student come from my own pursuits and  temptations, but not from necessities. If I’m inclined to read a good book, or binge-watch Gilmore Girls until I feel compelled to wear my low-rise, boot-cut, bedazzled, jeans from 2012 and dance to the Bangles, I can, provided that my homework is complete. 

Not all of my peers are so fortunate. Many of them have taken on new household responsibilities while their parents are needed on the front lines. They care for younger siblings, cook meals, and worry about the safety of their parents. They study in shared rooms with equally unfocused siblings. They battle the mental hardships of isolation in an effort to motivate themselves. 

For the most part, Parker has done a good job addressing these circumstantial burdens, especially in their creation of the new schedule. 

The administration has limited classes to twice a week apiece. They have crafted a schedule that allows for substantial breaks throughout the day, during which students may perform their personal duties. Perhaps most important, they have created “Flex” periods during which teachers answer students’ questions, an attempt at a replacement for the hours that students spend getting additional help from their educators.

The new grading policy adopted by Parker, in accordance with CPS school mandates, is that student grades can not decrease during quarantine unless they do not demonstrate adequate “engagement” in their classes, and that grades may be improved during the remaining weeks of school. While this is a step in the right direction, it is not nearly enough. 

It is inequitable to give privileged students like myself a better opportunity to raise our grades than our equally deserving peers, especially given that “engagement” is such a subjective matter. Does engagement mean the completion of work precluded in many cases by siblings or parents or isolation itself? Can engagement be quantified, measured, and attributed a grade outside of school? I’m not compelled to think so. 

During this time, it is Parker’s responsibility to recognize the needs of its community and abolish grading all together or to allow students to choose pass/fail marks if they so desire. Only when this is done, will a measure of the spirit of Parker, learning for the sake of interest and self-betterment instead of learning for course-completion, be regained.