PVHS assembly Sheridan

School Board Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District)

School Board member Jeff Morse provided the quote of the month last week while the board was discussing Loudoun County Public Schools' initial efforts at grading and tracking progress in this challenging period of distance learning.

Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) expressed equity-related concerns about giving teachers the option to grade students' work if the students showed improvement. “We are expanding the gap for the students who don't have access, who don't have the ability and the support at home, who are being pulled in different directions because of the current circumstance,” she said.

To which Morse offered up this zinger: "The easiest way for us to ensure equity is just to stop learning."

"We keep chipping away at the opportunity for the kids to learn,” Morse continued. “We're trying to make it equitable for all, and there's going to be gaps. What we need to do is continue to move forward, identify the gaps and fill them in where possible. What we should not be doing is coming to an all-stop."

Exactly right. The world is complex. There will always be challenges, both internal and external, for some students. No one School Board member, teacher, superintendent or even parent is going to abolish all obstacles. Educators and parents should obviously try to eliminate each and every challenge in a passionate and persistent campaign to teach, but Morse is right: There's always going to be gaps. It's just the way of the world.

While instructors work to minimize the gaps, meanwhile, the student population at large should have the opportunity to excel.

Access and equity concerns should always be part of the conversation. Of course they should. But the School Board would have been opting for an obtuse over-correction were it to eliminate educational markers for the greater population for perceived problems that have yet to present themselves.

Fortunately, Sheridan was essentially alone in opposing Leesburg representative Beth Barts' motion to add the following language to the LCPS Continuity of Education Grading Plan: "Teachers may improve a final grade based on Quarter 4 work done by a student if the student shows improvement or progress compared to that student's previous work. Team leads will set consistency guidelines."

Barts commented, "I have heard from numerous families who are so upset that the work that their students were doing for the end of the year will not have any impact on their final grade.”

The Leesburg member's proposal passed 7-2, with only Sheridan and Leslee King (Broad Run District) opposing. King's dissension seemed more to do with allowing LCPS staff time to examine the proposal than the equity concerns voiced by Sheridan.

In these uncharted waters for LCPS and the education community at large, the last thing anyone should be doing is removing opportunities for students – any student, all students – to progress through their education. Our children have already been set back by several lost weeks of learning while instructors were preparing for the new normal of distance learning. Only time will tell exactly how much damage has been done.

That Sheridan would want to consciously halt a proposal that allows Loudoun's more than 80,000 students the chance to be measured – and therefore possibly rewarded – for their hard work during this hard time is a head-scratcher. We hope the chairwoman will pause and think next time she prioritizes unrealized problems over educational opportunities.

(5) comments

Virginia SGP

Are you out of your mind? Taxpayers pay $15K/child to provide an education to these kids. Students don't attend school to obtain grades but to learn. Ask any child in India, Africa or Asia whether they want to learn. The answer in yes. Why is it that LoCo students will apparently ONLY learn if we appease them with these extra credit grades? If that is the only way, LoCo is doomed.

And your analogy is way off base. If the champion of the track season is based on how many points an athlete accumulates during the season, would anybody suggest that halfway through the season we allow only some athletes who can walk to the field to continue accumulating points? How in the world would that be fair? We would certainly expect athletes to keep training and compete for the love of the sport. But to preference some over others in a competiton in the middle of the season?

And you ignore the fact that the SB - acting on an unannounced motion without full information - hadn't even considered the biggest arguments against "extra credit". There is no way to measure mastery when parents can do the work for their students. These open-book, open-parent-cheating assignments demonstrate NOTHING about how well their grade-grubbing kid mastered the content. In fact, many students will blow off half their classes so they can concentrate on ones where they can get extra credit and an advantage on students who must watch their 3-yr-old sibling while a single parents works all day.

To suggest that no learning will occur if you don't bribe students with extra credit for massive cheating is beyond cynical. Why not encourage students to not fall behind in their studies. To learn for learning's sake. To continue learning to keep up with students in other districts and around the world. Or is the sum total of our education system a bribe (grade) without which our lazy students won't lift a finger. This policy is unfair, unwise, and a handout to all the grade-grubbing, pretender parents.

BobOhneiserEsq

Its really easy when you take out the politics, false agenda, bias and idiocy. The society we live in has demanded EQUAL EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES! That means that when a teacher or administrator is aware or should be aware of a students inability to do the work due to a lack of home support they try to accommodate it the best they can so the opportunity to learn is as equal as possible. For a family that just got here from a nation that doesn't even speak English they need help. On the flip side if a family has been in the USA for 50 years they should be able to help their child with schoolwork etc unless there is some medical or psychological issue. Color and ancestry is not an excuse to be able to help your child learn. The politics of make believe causes of a failure to work at learning needs to stop or else we will end up with a generation of over entitled, dependent on government subsidy leaches. LCPS has a great system which can be improved if the school board can focus on its job of managing the Superintendent instead of playing make believe with $1.4 billion of our tax dollars and our children's futures. :-)

sterlingVA

No need for name calling. Morse was simply pointing out the obvious; that it wouldn't be fair to the 95% of students. Why must we always "fill the gap" by lowering the standards? Talk about an un-imaginative solution!

cn04

I understand that emotions are high, and children and parents want to be rewarded for their hard work, but I don't find Sheridan's concern to be a "head scratcher". If anything, it is a welcome reminder to step outside of our bubbles and recognize how this increased gap in learning is going to affect students who are already behind their peers for reasons that Sheridan mentions, such as access to internet and home support. If you'd really like to see improvement in "opportunities for students – any student, all students," then you must recognize that allowing students with the means necessary to earn grades does more to set back students who do not have access than anything else. If we are aiming to close these gaps, then why create a chasm due to inaccessibility? Instead of giving each student an equal opportunity to improve their grade, only those with the means to access education can possibly benefit. This leads to why people want their grades improved - colleges. Those without access will not have the same opportunity to improve their grades before college applications, and it could be assumed that they simply didn’t earn higher grades, not that they were unable to access their education. To describe Sheridan's concern as a "head scratcher" and to praise Morse's unhelpful and condescending “zinger” comes off as incredibly out of touch. And the notion that you follow which basically amounts to, “Well, gaps exist and always will, what can you do?” is a defeatist attitude which serves to protect the unbalanced status quo.

Oldbroad

Great answer! Yes, this is a trying time and they are doing something never done before and, regrettably, there will be inequities. Morse should be ashamed...what a butthead!

TEAMWORK...maybe some kids can tutor other kids they normally would not know...a great time to teach the kids how to help and be part of a greater good. There is a.big gap in our privileged area...think of creative ways to close it!

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