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Long Island schools review remote grading options for students during pandemic

Roberta Gerold, superintendent of the Middle Country School

Roberta Gerold, superintendent of the Middle Country School District, said her district would not fail any secondary school student for the third quarter. Credit: James Carbone

Long Island school officials are considering various ways to grade students during the fourth and final quarter, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has closed schools until at least May 15 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some districts may offer a pass/fail option or use distance learning to calculate numerical grades, but many are still reviewing their next steps. Cuomo announced the extended closure Thursday. Schools statewide have been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 crisis, and districts have since been offering remote instruction.

"While some districts have already made decisions about fourth-quarter grading, others are still in the process of reviewing and finalizing plans," said West Islip Superintendent Bernadette Burns, president of  the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association. "The one sure commonality is that decisions are based in the best interest of our students."

For the third quarter that recently ended, many Long Island systems graded students using classroom work done while in school, along with the online lessons.

"These … weeks have not been without challenges for everyone, ranging from a lack of devices, to illness, to Wi-Fi. Taking this into consideration, LUFSD will collectively be adopting a 'Do No Harm' policy for the third quarter," read a letter to parents from Lindenhurst Superintendent Daniel E. Giordano. The policy applies to secondary students, as elementary students are on a trimester grading schedule, which ended before schools closed.

Lindenhurst teachers will provide quarterly grades taking into account any work completed before schools closed. Teachers will use distance learning assignments if it benefited the third-quarter average, Lindenhurst officials said.

"Assignments and assessments completed via distance learning will likely be our only means of assigning grades for the fourth quarter in accordance with teachers’ normal grading policies," Giordano said.  

Roberta Gerold, superintendent of the Middle Country School District, said her district would not fail any secondary school student for the third quarter. For grades 6-12, the third-quarter grade would be the average of the first and second term, unless the third-quarter grade was higher, she said.

"We wanted to make sure we made the decisions in the best interest of our children," she said. District officials had considered a pass/fail system, but started to hear from parents whose children wanted to improve their averages.

The district kicked off its full distance-learning program Wednesday, for all 9,300 students with expanded access to Chromebooks and other technology. Gerold said secondary students will get numerical grades for the fourth semester, and the district will include a participation rate in calculating grades when a student checks in on Google classroom.

In Riverhead, school officials said in a note to parents that any students in grades 5-12 who were failing or performing below expectations before school closed will be contacted by a teacher to help raise their grade.

The grading system for elementary school students in the William Floyd district is under review. The district started online instruction for its 8,700 students Monday. 

"For middle schools, we are providing a ‘no mark’ designation for the third quarter and factoring in third-quarter work into the fourth-quarter grades whether that work was completed in school, in packets or online," spokesman James Montalto said. "At the high school level, we were online within one week of the first closure, so grading will be similar to when schools are in normal session.”

In the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, officials told parents that teachers will provide a quarterly grade for students for work completed before school closed. Remote work will be factored into grades "if and only if it benefits the student’s 3rd quarter average," read the note from Superintendent John DeTommaso. 

The district said quarterly averages for the third quarter will be determined by using the higher of the following two scores: the traditionally calculated average for the third marking period, or an average of scores for the first three marking periods. 

The district had considered a pass/fail policy for the fourth quarter, and that is under review.