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The summative/formative grading system is not beneficial for virtual learning

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

Here’s a scenario. A student has a hard time taking tests and doesn’t do well on an assessment. This brings their grade down significantly. They are also trying to learn Calculus via online learning with limited access to their teacher.

Winnacunnet High School implemented the summative/formative grading system in 2018 and it is one aspect of Winnacunnet life that has survived enriched virtual learning. With this grading system, 90 percent of a student’s grade is dictated by performance on tests, projects and other weighty assignments and the other 10 percent is homework and classwork.

The summative/formative system is counterintuitive during a usual school year, but with remote learning, the system is even worse for students. The summative/formative grading system should have been reevaluated by the administration during the summer. First, the frequency of larger assignments has been reduced in the presence of virtual learning, with more emphasis being placed on smaller assignments that can be easily completed outside the classroom. Second, the summative/formative system essentially rewards students for cheating.

Enriched virtual learning creates an environment where it is easy to cheat.Winnacunnet's camera policy doesn't require students to have cameras on at all times, and even with a camera on, a teacher cannot see the full scope of a student's surroundings. This presents the problem of students gaming the summative/formative system to get grades they don't necessarily deserve.

When students learn how to game the system, there are no winners. The student that cheats gets a grade they didn’t earn, students who don’t test as well fall behind because of all the weight placed on larger assignments and teachers can’t help as much as they could because a virtual barrier separates them from students.

The newly implemented hybrid plan makes the severity of the summative/formative grading system bearable since the hybrid plan more closely resembles a usual school year, but it still has its drawbacks. There are students that remained fully remote that will continue to feel the full effect of this grading system.

Tests and projects should count for a larger part of a student's grade than homework, as homework is practice and tests are meant to show what has been learned, but the summative/formative grading system doesn’t work with virtual learning. Should Winnacunnet ever have to implement full remote learning again, the grading system needs to be reevaluated.

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