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.