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Guest opinion: Credit/no credit grading system is about reality, not charity

MVLA District Teachers Association president and past president weigh in on credit/no credit grading switch

In response to last week's guest opinion ("Let’s not allow COVID-19 to harm any student’s grades," April 11):

Credit/no credit: It’s about reality, not charity

As president, and past president, of the District Teachers Association (DTA) for the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, and as teachers with collectively three decades of experiences in our district, we feel compelled to address some of the issues in the guest opinion written by MVLA school board member Phil Faillace.

We are grateful that the MVLAUHSD Board of Trustees has exhibited sound judgment and regard for educational experts in the district and broader education community by voting in favor of credit/no credit grading.

This is the best approach to address the unstable environment for teaching during a global pandemic. Teachers across the country are being asked the impossible, and we will rise to the occasion, as we always do.

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Learning during COVID-19 highlights the inequities that already exist when we’re learning inside four walls. The power of equity that a physical classroom provides is impossible to replicate through distance learning. In effect, assigning letter grades to our students is equal to assessing their access to technology and Wi-Fi, their housing security and ableism. This is why so many districts have moved to this model, including neighboring districts in Santa Clara and Palo Alto. In recent days, the University of California system, Yale, Harvard, MIT, Dartmouth, Stanford and many other colleges have made the shift too, opting to focus on students’ learning experiences over grades.

It is also why this semester will stand as an anomaly to most colleges and universities when assessing student achievement. Colleges and universities will forever have an asterisk by the spring semester of this school year. They will question the validity and rigor of learning experiences, as well as the reliability of grades and what they represent.

We simply aren’t willing to take that chance with students’ futures

We, along with other colleagues, spoke at the April 3 MVLA school board meeting in support of Superintendent Nellie Meyers’ recommendation to move to a credit/no Credit system of grading for the final semester of the 2019-2020 school year.

Below, we outline research that shows moving to a credit/no credit system will offer the greatest benefit to students.

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• For many students, including high-achieving students throughout our community, this pandemic is jeopardizing even the most basic of human needs. Family stability is being tested in ways that transcend socioeconomics and access to resources. Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” illustrates that the most basic physiological and safety needs such as food, water, warmth and security must be met before higher-level needs such as esteem and self-actualization can be satisfied. In other words, you need a belly full of food and to know that you’re safe to achieve your full potential. Continuing to grade students by traditional measures will not only widen the achievement gap between students in this district, but it can also disadvantage high-achieving students who are trying to report and maintain letter grades as well.

• EdTrust Vice President of Higher Education Policy and Practice Wil Del Pilar, in his piece titled “Thoughts from a Former College Admissions Officer in the COVID-19 Era,” points to an article of online learning as colleges try to provide access to more students. The study answers the question, “As schools (close or) move to an online platform, how will students’ grades be impacted? Some research has shown that online learning reduces student success and lowers a student’s GPA. Given this, institutions should carefully consider students’ GPAs prior to and after, if online learning was implemented, the disruption of their learning.”

• According to a study, Virtual Classrooms: How Online College Courses Affect Student Success, “taking a course online, instead of in-person, reduces student success … The estimated effect is a 0.44 grade point drop in a course grade, which amounts to one third of a standard deviation decline.”

“Students taking the course in-person earned roughly a B− grade (2.8) on average while their peers in online classes earned a C (2.4). Additionally, taking a course online reduces a student’s GPA the following term by 0.15 points” (Bettinger et al.).

• The same study says “the negative effect of online course-taking occurs across the distribution of course grades; taking a course online reduces the probability of earning an A or higher by 12.2 percentage points, a B or higher by 13.5 points, a C or higher by 10.1 points, and a D or higher (passing the course) by 8.5 points" (results presented in online Appendix Table 4, page 15).

A credit/no credit system alleviates the potential negative consequences for all students who have dreams of attending college. This shift reduces the overwhelming pressure that learning in this environment causes. Staff can administer assessments without having to overly focus on maintaining the integrity of the fine delineations of letter grades. Students can focus on what is needed most at this moment: maintaining their well-being and learning.

We appreciate the opportunity to share our thoughts on this critical issue facing our community.

David Campbell is president of the District Teachers Association (DTA) for the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, and Michelle Bissonnette is past president.

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The Voice will publish guest opinions online every weekend while the publication of our print edition is suspended. Submit signed op-eds of no more than 600 words to letters@mv-voice.com by Wednesday at 5 p.m.

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Guest opinion: Credit/no credit grading system is about reality, not charity

MVLA District Teachers Association president and past president weigh in on credit/no credit grading switch

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Sat, Apr 18, 2020, 9:52 am
Updated: Mon, Apr 20, 2020, 9:21 am

In response to last week's guest opinion ("Let’s not allow COVID-19 to harm any student’s grades," April 11):

Credit/no credit: It’s about reality, not charity

As president, and past president, of the District Teachers Association (DTA) for the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, and as teachers with collectively three decades of experiences in our district, we feel compelled to address some of the issues in the guest opinion written by MVLA school board member Phil Faillace.

We are grateful that the MVLAUHSD Board of Trustees has exhibited sound judgment and regard for educational experts in the district and broader education community by voting in favor of credit/no credit grading.

This is the best approach to address the unstable environment for teaching during a global pandemic. Teachers across the country are being asked the impossible, and we will rise to the occasion, as we always do.

Learning during COVID-19 highlights the inequities that already exist when we’re learning inside four walls. The power of equity that a physical classroom provides is impossible to replicate through distance learning. In effect, assigning letter grades to our students is equal to assessing their access to technology and Wi-Fi, their housing security and ableism. This is why so many districts have moved to this model, including neighboring districts in Santa Clara and Palo Alto. In recent days, the University of California system, Yale, Harvard, MIT, Dartmouth, Stanford and many other colleges have made the shift too, opting to focus on students’ learning experiences over grades.

It is also why this semester will stand as an anomaly to most colleges and universities when assessing student achievement. Colleges and universities will forever have an asterisk by the spring semester of this school year. They will question the validity and rigor of learning experiences, as well as the reliability of grades and what they represent.

We simply aren’t willing to take that chance with students’ futures

We, along with other colleagues, spoke at the April 3 MVLA school board meeting in support of Superintendent Nellie Meyers’ recommendation to move to a credit/no Credit system of grading for the final semester of the 2019-2020 school year.

Below, we outline research that shows moving to a credit/no credit system will offer the greatest benefit to students.

• For many students, including high-achieving students throughout our community, this pandemic is jeopardizing even the most basic of human needs. Family stability is being tested in ways that transcend socioeconomics and access to resources. Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” illustrates that the most basic physiological and safety needs such as food, water, warmth and security must be met before higher-level needs such as esteem and self-actualization can be satisfied. In other words, you need a belly full of food and to know that you’re safe to achieve your full potential. Continuing to grade students by traditional measures will not only widen the achievement gap between students in this district, but it can also disadvantage high-achieving students who are trying to report and maintain letter grades as well.

• EdTrust Vice President of Higher Education Policy and Practice Wil Del Pilar, in his piece titled “Thoughts from a Former College Admissions Officer in the COVID-19 Era,” points to an article of online learning as colleges try to provide access to more students. The study answers the question, “As schools (close or) move to an online platform, how will students’ grades be impacted? Some research has shown that online learning reduces student success and lowers a student’s GPA. Given this, institutions should carefully consider students’ GPAs prior to and after, if online learning was implemented, the disruption of their learning.”

• According to a study, Virtual Classrooms: How Online College Courses Affect Student Success, “taking a course online, instead of in-person, reduces student success … The estimated effect is a 0.44 grade point drop in a course grade, which amounts to one third of a standard deviation decline.”

“Students taking the course in-person earned roughly a B− grade (2.8) on average while their peers in online classes earned a C (2.4). Additionally, taking a course online reduces a student’s GPA the following term by 0.15 points” (Bettinger et al.).

• The same study says “the negative effect of online course-taking occurs across the distribution of course grades; taking a course online reduces the probability of earning an A or higher by 12.2 percentage points, a B or higher by 13.5 points, a C or higher by 10.1 points, and a D or higher (passing the course) by 8.5 points" (results presented in online Appendix Table 4, page 15).

A credit/no credit system alleviates the potential negative consequences for all students who have dreams of attending college. This shift reduces the overwhelming pressure that learning in this environment causes. Staff can administer assessments without having to overly focus on maintaining the integrity of the fine delineations of letter grades. Students can focus on what is needed most at this moment: maintaining their well-being and learning.

We appreciate the opportunity to share our thoughts on this critical issue facing our community.

David Campbell is president of the District Teachers Association (DTA) for the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, and Michelle Bissonnette is past president.

Comments

Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2020 at 11:45 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2020 at 11:45 am
3 people like this

Thanks for the public comments from the teachers' union representatives. I think Trustee Faillace had some valuable comments and insights, but I basically agree with the preponderance of evidence that distance learning (on-line) basically has been proven at this time to INCREASE WEALTH-INEQUITY. This also has been discovered (statistically proven, and observationally noted) in a local Silicon Valley study of the on-line iReady program for 7th grade math education (used by MVWSD for all students).

The problem is assess - the buzz word for that is DIGIAL DIVIDE. It is real, it is measurable, and it has been measured and found-a-problem. No students will be harmed when the collective GPAs of all students at MVLA are all impacted. This is NOT SF's 'brain dead' idea of giving "A"s to everyone! It is not MVWSD's brain dead idea of 'not grading work'.

A reasonable compromise aligned with a reasonable understanding of several different closely related research studies. I LIKE my community public policy based on good data. I also like it based on equity not, 'most AP courses / highest GPA' family push! Just quit 'shoving' for the-front-of-the-line guys!


Dan Rice
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2020 at 3:48 pm
Dan Rice, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2020 at 3:48 pm
2 people like this

This article is linked to a WSJ article on 6-22-2020 on the failure of remote learning/online lessons. To read this piece by the Mountain View Voice is laughable despite the serious topic of educating our youth. I'll make this very brief: The devil is not in the details of the student performance stats. while Covid-19 pandemic. The Devil is on the backs of administration AND Teachers that hide behind the buttress of your Unions while delivering poor professional services. Eliminate Public Teachers unions and support vouchers and charter schools. Our kids need Me Too and a Black Lives Matters type movements to bring their plight to public view.


The Business Man
Castro City
on Jun 22, 2020 at 6:57 pm
The Business Man, Castro City
on Jun 22, 2020 at 6:57 pm
1 person likes this

Just an observation.

It is VERY hard to establish valid grading in the school system.

Especially if you are emphasizing critical thinking.

How does one paper warrant a better letter grade over another is in many ways not reliable or valid.

I work in HR and using grades on people is VERY tricky. It is easy to get into providing bias even when you try VERY hard to prevent it.

So the idea that if a performance would be above "satisfactory" could warrant a "Pass" or Credit" that seems like it would offer less possibility of bias.

And this also applies to "SAT" or tests like that given that they have issues with reliability and validity as well. Many questions tend to be misunderstood by the readers and thus wind up with false test results.

This is a difficult problem.


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