WV students don’t have equal online access, and educators are teaching them in different ways. How to grade equally is in question.

By Ryan Quinn, Charleston Gazette-Mail

April 1, 2020

West Virginia’s statewide school closure has gone on for more than two weeks now, and the state Department of Education hasn’t yet released clear guidance or clear mandates on whether teachers should grade the work they’re giving students during the shutdown.

Department spokeswoman Christy Day said new guidance won’t be available until late Wednesday or Thursday. In the meantime, interviews with teachers and parents show counties and schools are providing distance education through sending students paper assignments, or through the internet, or both.

A big issue: Children don’t have equal access to computers or the internet in this rural state with a high poverty rate. And some students, particularly those in poverty or receiving special education, require more resources to educate than others.


And research has raised concern about the impact of online education, even when it’s done well.

West Virginia education was already unequal before the schools closed. Now, it may become more so, further complicating how to fairly grade kids who are dealing with vastly different circumstances.

State schools Superintendent Clayton Burch did, more than a week ago, “strongly advise” that schools not expect students to return papers to teachers for grading — advice that, if followed, likely eliminates the possibility of grading kids without internet access.

Day said that advice hasn’t become a mandate yet.

Regarding special education students, the education department has written that “when a school closed due to the COVID-19 response efforts is providing educational services via distance education [offering curriculum, taking attendance and providing grades] to the general student population, the county must ensure that students with disabilities have equal access.”