In-person schooling has been canceled for the rest of the school year in North Carolina. This means many children are performing their schoolwork from home. In March, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) conducted a survey to gain more information about students’ transition to remote learning. JLF’s Dr. Terry Stoops analyzed the results of this survey in a research brief this week. Stoops writes:

For the districts and schools that were actively monitoring student participation, only 42% reported that between 80 and 100% of students participated. Another 40% of respondents had student participation rates below 80%. Alarmingly, the remaining districts and schools did not collect sufficient data to report their remote learning attendance to DPI staff.

Among the factors contributing to lack of student engagement, Stoops writes, are technology, grades, and household factors.

On April 23, the N.C. State Board of Education issued an amended grading policy for the rest of the school year. Stoops explains:

According to the approved policy, students in grades K-5 will not receive a final grade.  Middle school students will receive a final grade of “pass” or “withdraw,” depending on their mastery of course standards.  In lieu of a grade, teachers are expected to provide academic and social/emotional feedback to families of both elementary and middle school students.  High school students have the choice of receiving a grade or the pass/withdraw option that will not impact their grade point average.  If families choose the graded option, the final grade will be based on work completed as of March 13 or during the subsequent period of remote learning if the grade improved during that time.

This grading policy could be leading to some disengagement from students. Stoops writes:

“The week before they released the grading policy, I had 85% of my students working,” a public school teacher recently wrote on Facebook. “Now I have 30%.”

… Teachers, including the one quoted above, are now confronting the unintended consequences of this policy. Of course, grades are not the only incentive in play.  Parents continue to hold their children accountable for completing their work.  A small number of students possess an intrinsic desire to work hard or satisfy the expectations of their teachers, parents, or themselves.  For many students, however, grades (specifically the possibility of a failing grade) are the principal reason why they invest time and effort in their assigned schoolwork.

Read the full brief here. Learn more about how k-12 education has been impacted by Coronavirus here.