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Remote learning may affect grades



Rochester, N.Y. –  With schools around the area headed into exams and report cards for the fall semester, educators are warning that this fall’s grades could reflect the hard time some students are having.

Most area schools have been containing coronavirus with hybrid learning, and Rochester City schools are totally online. With the end of the semester coming, teachers and principals are hoping parents don’t panic.

“I think parents need to cut their kids some slack. This is huge. They are not used to this learning,” says Rochester high school English teacher Corrine Mundorff, whose students are all remote learning.

She echoes a warning many teachers are sounding: don’t expect students’ report cards to look like they do in a normal year.

“It is definitely apples and oranges,” she says. “You can’t take the grade my kids have this year and compare it to the grade my kids last year had at the end of the first marking period.”

“This is like something I’ve never had before,” says Casey Van Harssel, the principal at East Rochester’s high school.

In East Rochester, high school students are following a hybrid model where they are in school only two days a week. Van Harssel says many principals like him have been discussing how to handle grading when lessons have been almost overshadowed for the students by the challenges of not being in school.

“We’ve had the ability to really wrap our hands around the kids while they’re here and provide them with support and extra support as we approach the end of the quarter,” he says.  “That kind of pushing and encouragement to finish strong with a quarter. While we’re doing that this quarter, the reality is it’s much harder to do.”

Van Harssel says some students who’d been keeping up in the past have been noticeably struggling with the hybrid classes. He says school leaders first looked at their issues at the five-week mark last month, and those conversations are picking up again now.
Teachers say they hope parents who’ve been watching their kids’ ups and down online, will be understanding and talk about how they can help

“There isn’t going to be a giant uproar about the report cards,” says Rochester 5th-grade teacher Jason Valenti. “I think it’s going to be something we learn to work with. Just, like, we learned to work with everything else in this.”

Van Harssel is expecting some anxious conversations with students’ families but he says the process of learning will continue, even if it takes some fine-tuning headed into spring.

“Those grades are important,” he says.  “They are a number. But that’s not the whole story and we should really focus less on that grade and more on, overall, how are they doing,”

“There’s always going to be an asterisk this year,” says Valenti.  “And I hope it’s the only asterisk we ever have, where we have to be out a school year because of a pandemic.”