When it was clear last spring that schools would not be reopening for the remainder of the school year, schools started to sort through logistics, like grading. Would students be receiving grades for work done remotely? What, if any, penalties would there be for not completing remote learning? Show-Me Institute analysts performed a review of school districts and charter schools in Missouri and administered a non-representative survey of districts and charters in the state. We found that very few conducted grading as normal.
While we did find a fair amount of information in our review, there are many holes left in the data as some district’s websites and Facebook pages were non-existent, outdated, or didn’t include parent communications. It is also possible that some districts updated their policies after we reviewed their websites. Despite this, we were still able to get a glimpse into what many districts were doing.
Through the data we collected, we found information on grading procedures for 178 districts and charter schools. Of those, we found that fewer than 15 percent of districts and charter schools stated that they graded coursework for credit during the school shutdowns. Forty two percent opted for a hold harmless approach to grading. These schools decided on a baseline for students’ grades—possibly their grade the last day of in-person classes or 3rd quarter grades—and any work a student completed during the shutdown could only raise that grade, not lower it.
Additionally, we sent out a survey to all superintendents in the state and asked key questions about how their district educated their students during the lockdown. While the survey responses from districts and charters were not necessarily representative of the state, we did receive 70 responses. Of those, just one district responded that it was conducting grading as normal. Another nine districts responded that they were still grading, but grades counted for less than they would under normal circumstances. Thirty-nine districts, or just over half, said they chose hold harmless grading.
Given how unexpected and sudden the COVID-19 shutdowns were, some patience as districts adjusted was necessary. It may have taken some time for schools to work out any mishaps or miscommunications before grading could take place, and families were also adjusting to a sudden change in responsibilities. But still: Almost no Missouri students have done graded work for over five months. If normal grading procedures resume this fall, it would indicate that districts are again teaching material to students. If not, it could be another semester for students without much learning.