Historically, the closing of October marks a critical time-frame for monitoring and data analysis in education. It’s the first marking period for many districts across the United States, allowing an initial opportunity to pause and examine data on academics and attendance. But as we all know, what has been “typical” in the past does not necessarily apply to 2020.

We’re facing challenges that are unprecedented – in education and beyond – and it’s time to ask… what policies and procedures are applicable and what are not? What is equitable? How do we pause, adjust, and act in manageable increments? These questions are asked in terms of data collection and analysis, and applies to all aspects of education.

First off, it’s time to decide what grades mean TODAY and to draw attention to equitable grading and assessments. The disconnect in what grades generally mean is known as “grade fog”, a term coined by education author and consultant Susan Brookhart. The grade itself is delivering incongruent information. If a student gets positive points for showing up for Zoom sessions, but isn’t mastering the material, he/she might receive the same grade as a student who knows the concepts, but has absences.

Traditional grading is largely subjective – meaning different things to teachers, administrators, parents, and students – causing misalignment in education as a whole. Chris Brandt from the Center for Assessment suggests a shift toward performance-based assessments which can be thoughtfully designed to elicit evidence about students’ application of skills. Educators and students can use assessment evidence formatively to help understand the criteria for success, including critical 21st Century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, complex communication, and self-direction.

Secondly, in looking at attendance during remote and hybrid learning, what constitutes chronic absenteeism? What expectations need to be adjusted? Phyllis Jordan of FutureEd asks some great questions in The Challenge of Taking Attendance in Remote Learning, “So what’s the online equivalent of showing up for school? Is it logging on to a remote portal? Interacting with a teacher one-on-one or on a group video conference? Turning in an assignment?” Striking a balance between accounting for attendance in both synchronous and asynchronous delivery types, establishing high expectations with support, and being hyper-vigilant toward non-punitive responses to absences are all vital steps.

Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” The continuous improvement cycle allows for incremental and ongoing effort to improve systems and adapt through a consistent review of data with the “plan-do-study-act” process. By defining clear short-term goals and focusing collective effort along with consideration for the environmental, socio-economical, technical, and family dynamics that impact academics and absenteeism, a reasonable approach to immediate improvement is possible. Additionally, a solid path for family/caregiver engagement, consistent communication, and relationships must be paved before a student loses an entire year (or more) of learning.

So where do we go from here? Now that you have the data at your fingertips, get together with your team and ask these questions:

  • Purpose: What are we going to do with the data?
  • Intentionality: Are these the right metrics to measure in the first place?
  • Analysis: In looking at absenteeism with remote learning, are we figuring out the root cause?
  • Action: What’s the plan for course correction that is customized for each family and situation?
  • Adjust: What do grades really mean at this moment in time?
  • Reflect: Is the scoring we’ve used in the past appropriate now?

Equitable grading/assessment systems and absentee policies need to adapt with the changing landscape of our world. And it’s possible that making adjustments now can have a positive effect on education currently and for the future generations of learners.




Hough, L. (2019). Grade Expectations: Why we need to rethink grading in our schools. Retrieved from https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/ed/19/05/grade-expectations

A visual diagram of a Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle. Retrieved from Research Gate



How is remote/hybrid instruction going at your school, or schools? Let’s find out together … Check out our resources on continuous improvement for remote instructional leadership!

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Student and Family Engagement for Multilingual, Exceptionally Abled, & Culturally Diverse Families post-pandemic and beyond

Join us to hear our panelists, Dafny J. Irizarry, President, Long Island Latino Teachers Association (LILTA), Dr. Alex Marrero, Interim Superintendent, City School District of New Rochelle, and Dr. Nichelle Rivers President, Nassau County Alliance of Black School Educators. Hosted by Fostering Quality Schools with special guests, Dr. Aurelia Henriquez and Dr. Mark Blitz. Family engagement and learning are inextricably linked, especially for our most vulnerable students, families, and caregivers. Our panelists share their expertise and systems approach to authentic communication and student engagement. Learn more about professional learning activities that will help visualize what’s working. 

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