Up until recently, the idea of learning from home was commonly idealized by students. Many believed that classes would be easier due to the flexibility with the learning environment, decreased workload, and grade inflation. However, the experiences of both students and teachers following their first semester of online learning depicted an image that proves otherwise.
Seeing an 55.7% increase, first semester D and F rates spiked from 11.5% in the 2019-20 school year to 17.9% in the 2020-21 school year. Due to the decline in academic performance, teachers have made efforts to ease the difficulties of online learning.
Along with office hours, teachers addressed concerns about grades by granting extra credit opportunities and assessing students through more presentations and projects rather than tests. Math teacher Jessica Chow began accepting late assignments and believed that “assigning less work and grading easier was a must for this year.”
“It does not surprise me that there are students who are doing worse than ever before,” Chow said. “Teachers need to keep in mind that this is not the ideal situation for anyone, so we should be lenient. I hope students know that simply telling teachers about their situation can change a teacher’s mentality about how they grade assignments.”
While some students felt that grade inflation undermined their efforts, others appreciated it because they struggled to engage in their learning through a virtual environment. Difficulties transitioning to an online learning system, as well as personal struggles caused by outside factors, inhibited students’ education.
“I feel like I am just watching a tedious four-hour video every day, so it is much harder to concentrate and maintain the motivation to learn,” sophomore David Chau said. “I was scared that I would do poorly this year, so I am glad that teachers are making changes to accommodate everyone’s circumstances.”
Due to shortened instructional time, many teachers planned to cover less material this year. For many students, especially those planning to take AP classes, passing classes was not as important as receiving a quality education.
“The district advised teachers to focus more on the essential, core standards, so it is true that students may not be able to learn everything that they would normally be able to cover,” Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Janet Lees said. “For me, learning is not only about learning every detail of the material, but being able to utilize and apply the information.”
The district will be reviewing semester grades at the end of this month. It will be discussing recommendations about providing students with the support they need to better engage in distance learning.