Teachers rethink grading with Virtual Haverford

Mr. Andrén in a Zoom meeting discussing Virtual Haverford and exams

As the school year comes to an end, the student body has continued to wonder how their second-semester grades will pan out. Students and teachers are in a difficult situation, trying to adjust to life within the confines of their home while maintaining their focus towards schoolwork. Recently, the administration decided to ease the grading system a bit to help relieve the newfound anxiety amongst students and to help them deal with these trying times.

     “[The administration] thought that it would be to [the students’] best advantage to continue a grading system,” Upper School Head Mr. Patrick Andrén said.

“We wanted to balance out students being engaged in what we do virtually, and also to make sure that they are being held accountable to learn skills for the next course that they are going to feed into. I see it as a happy medium for students.”

Mr. Justin Gaudreau

     Although each course has a different grading system, Mr. Andrén set a standard teachers to follow. “Given the circumstances, we need to take a grading approach that is based as much around engagement as possible. We want [the students] to show some thinking,” Mr. Andrén said.

     “The decision came from a conversation between the leaders of the different departments and Mr. Andrén,” Math Department Chair Mr. Justin Gaudreau said. “We wanted to balance out students being engaged in what we do virtually, and also to make sure that they are being held accountable to learn skills for the next course that they are going to feed into. I see it as a happy medium for students.”

     Science Department Chair Dr. Daniel Goduti said, “We want to recognize the students who are trying earnestly to be a part of it [online learning] but see their grades fail. We won’t let that be the outcome. The important thing to realize is that we are not trying to hurt anyone’s grade.”

     “Teachers should not penalize kids for Virtual Haverford. If you had an 85% when we left, you are going to have either an 85% or higher by the end of the semester,” History Department Chair Ms. Hannah Turlish said. “You are encouraged to work hard and do everything that you can when you are expected to do it: however, to have your grade go down during Virtual Haverford is not something that I personally feel comfortable with.”

     Mr. Andrén warned that Virtual Haverford is not an excuse for disengagement.

     “It’s not that grades cannot go down no matter what. It’s one thing if you have technical issues, if you have a family situation, or if there is a health situation,” Mr. Andrén said. “So, things beyond your control, we are not going to count that against you: however, if there is just a refusal to engage, then your grade can go down.”

     Although Mr. Andrén’s policy is the standard, some teachers have added their own twists to their second-semester grading policies. Math teacher Mr. Nathan Bridge has come up with an innovative strategy to ensure the school’s policy goes into effect.

     “From Virtual Haverford on, we split the gradebook in half, because Virtual Haverford began about halfway through the semester,” Mr. Bridge said. “At the end of the semester, I am going to average both grade books together. If the Virtual Haverford grade is better than the grade before the coronavirus began, then we’ll take that grade. If it went down, then I will disregard the grade from Virtual Haverford and the grade that [students] will get will be the one from when before Virtual Haverford began.”

     Another conflict faced was figuring out how to handle the final projects that the Math, English, and Science departments were scheduled to have.

     “[The science department] have made the decision to lower the final project percentage. Most individual courses are lowering it by about half, but there is a lot of discretion there to make sure teachers are giving appropriate weight to an appropriately cumulative assessment,” Dr. Goduti said.

     Mr. Gaudreau said, “The original percentages [for final exams] were set by policies in the handbook, depending on what level class you are in. What came down from meetings with Mr. Andrén was to remove 5% from the exam and convert that 5% to an engagement grade during Virtual Haverford.”

 “Students should not feel anxiety or concern around assessments that will hurt their grade. There is too much going on right now with the pandemic and the economic uncertainty around the country for us to be worried about assessments at this time.”

Mr. Nathan Bridge

     “There are many reasons why a kid may be struggling at this period: emotionally, with internet access, with a family member who is sick, or a family member who is a nurse or a doctor at this time. I feel like we would be grading kids based on how lucky they are not to be affected by the pandemic,” Ms. Turlish said.

     “Students should not feel anxiety or concern around assessments that will hurt their grade,” Mr. Bridge said. “There is too much going on right now with the pandemic and the economic uncertainty around the country for us to be worried about assessments at this time.”

     Obviously, students have been put into a difficult situation as a result of the pandemic.

     “Overall, I am just really impressed with how hard kids are working,” Ms. Turlish said.

Author: Ryan Rodack '22

Managing Editor Ryan Rodack is in his third year working on The Index. He previously served as arts editor and sports contributor.