With pass/fail grading, how can you know how your child is doing in school?

As the coronavirus crisis marches on, some schools are moving to pass/fail grading. You may wonder what this means for your child as schools consider this and other options.

Schools realize that families may be struggling with virtual schooling in different ways. Access to technology is uneven. In some places, technology is unreliable. Also, the pace of online work can vary greatly, and some students are better at managing it than others.

That’s partly why a pass/fail grading system is gaining popularity. But another reason is that schools are worried about the integrity of grades. Teachers can’t monitor tests and other assignments like they normally would.

If schools move to pass/fail grading, it’s natural for families to wonder how they can really know how their kids are doing in school. For families with struggling students or students with , the concern may be even greater.

Grades are an easy way to get an idea of how a student is performing. But they’re not the only way. In fact, they’re not even the best way. Grades don’t give you information like what kids didn’t know, or couldn’t show they knew, on an assignment or test.

Having your child at home gives you an opportunity to learn more about how your child is doing than a grade would. You have better access to assignments, quizzes, and tests than you would if your child were physically at school.

So, take advantage of that — but do it in a way that isn’t overwhelming to your child or to you.

To make the most of pass/fail grading, try setting up a regular time to check in on your child’s work. Younger kids are mostly focusing on building academic skills, so it helps to look at their work more often.

Take 15 minutes every two or three days to look at an assignment or a test from each subject. Talk to your child about the work, too. You could ask which things were easiest and which were hardest. You could also ask your child to tell you a little more about the topic.

For tweens and teens, meet once a week to go over one important assignment or quiz from each class. Remember that the idea is for you to get a sense of how your child is doing, not to be critical.

That can make your child less resistant to meeting with you. It’s a chance to give your child better support. You can also use information from the assignments and conversations to reach out to the teacher with specific questions.

In the end, you may find that distance learning gives you more insight into how your child is doing, even if it’s pass/fail.

About the author

About the author

Bob Cunningham, EdM has been part of Understood since its founding. He’s also been the chief administrator for several independent schools and a school leader in general and special education.


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