Important Considerations when Determining Student Assessment and Marking/Grading Policies and Guidelines during the Covid-19 Pandemic

 [ For the Balance of the 2019-2020 Academic Year ]

The Canadian Assessment for Learning Network (CAfLN) is a non-profit organization that supports K to 12 and post-secondary educators. Our mission is to help implement and sustain sound assessment and grading practices that promote student learning in schools across Canada. As part of our mission to maximize learning through advocacy, relationships, and research, we would like to address the current exceptional circumstances facing our schools, and the equally exceptional measures that will be  required to address student needs in an equitable way. Ministries of education and school boards are facing tremendous challenges as the world navigates a pandemic, not only to address immediate needs of educators, students, and families, but to prepare for the future challenges presented by interrupted and/ or drastically altered educational processes.

Assessment serves multiple purposes within any learning context: first, it elicits evidence of students’ current skills and understanding in relation to specific learning goals; it then communicates students’ strengths and needs to teachers and students to provide them with the information required to respond to those needs in specific and meaningful ways; and it allows teachers to verify the degree to which students have achieved the desired skills and understanding over time so that this information may be shared with stakeholders. In other words, assessment identifies students’ needs, celebrates their strengths, documents learning as it progresses, and verifies and communicates levels of proficiency at the end of an instructional cycle. These roles are essential, regardless of whether learning occurs in classrooms or remotely.

In responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and a shifting educational landscape, CAfLN believes that the primary responsibilities must be to maintain equitable learning opportunities for all students and to communicate clearly with all stakeholders. Given the diversity of educational responses to the pandemic, it is important to be mindful of the foundational, research-based attributes of effective assessment, grading, and reporting. Ministries of Education across the country are currently developing guidelines and policies to address the challenge of determining end-of- year/end-of-course marks/grades in the event that students may be out of school for a considerable time and/or may not return to school before the end of June. While these directives are essential to guide teachers’ practices in the immediate crisis, it is imperative that marking/grading and reporting decisions be made within the context of rich instruction, targeted and specific feedback, and opportunities for learners to continue to practice and grow for the
remainder of the academic year. Without this context, it may be tempting to fall back on simplistic and expeditious numerical mark/grade determination and lose the power of assessment as a foundation for learning.

When it is time to summarize assessment evidence and report results, we know that teachers want to communicate clear and accurate statements about student achievement, not only to reflect each learner’s current levels of skill and understanding, but to support future decision making at the next grade level or in post-secondary settings. In order to support ministries of education and school boards as they draft guidelines and policies to address marking/grading and reporting “end-of-year/course  achievement”, we would like to offer the following considerations:

Elementary and Middle Schools

No marks/grades, narrative reports only. This will serve to communicate important information to students, families and next year’s teachers while maintaining a focus on learning.

High Schools

Given the exceptional circumstances facing high school teachers and students, a temporary solution is necessary in the area of grading and reporting. Guskey (2020) suggests:

The most efficient and equitable approach in secondary schools is for teachers to use existing information about each student to determine a mark/grade of Incomplete, Pass and Pass with Distinction based on evidence of achievement at the time classes were suspended.

All students who had provided insufficient evidence of achievement (therefore incomplete) at the time classes were suspended may be provided with the opportunity to provide sufficient evidence (1). If they don’t provide the necessary evidence the final mark/grade for this year is Incomplete.

Students may be allowed to opt for pass/fail or the opportunity to earn “Pass with Distinction.” This might involve teachers having a conference with these students to determine the necessary additional evidence and the success criteria, and following up to determine whether students have provided evidence of sufficient quality (2).


1. All evidence submitted should contain a statement like this signed by the student; “Academic Integrity means honesty and responsibility in scholarship. My signature below shows my commitment to and obligation that all of my academic work is from my own efforts unaided except where specified. ____________ (initial here)” (Source: Crofton House School, Vancouver)

2. We recognize when we provide the opportunity for “Pass with Distinction” it places equity of access and equity of learning in jeopardy. Some students will opt into deep and rich learning and some will opt out. Even worse, some won’t have the option because access (technology, time, resources, supports, self-determination, confidence) will prevent it. Therefore, it is essential that when schools reopen all students have the opportunity to provide sufficient evidence to receive a Pass with Distinction.

Postponed: Assessment 20/20: How Clear is Our Vision?

Important Update

March 12, 2020

The Assessment 20/20 Conference, co-presented by The Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC) and the Canadian Assessment for Learning Network (CAfLN), scheduled to take place in Edmonton, Alberta from April 30 – May 1 has been postponed until October.

The Boards of both organizations have been monitoring the escalating spread of the COVID-19 virus and have made this decision in everyone’s best interests. To those who have registered, we want to thank you for your commitment to professional learning and for your patience.

Our current plan is to reschedule the pre-conference, conference and the CAfLN symposium for late October. However, this decision will be reviewed during the coming months.

We will communicate via email over the next few days with those who have previously registered. In the meantime, please cancel any travel arrangements you have made, such as hotels and airline reservations.


Amber Darroch
Chair, Alberta Assessment Consortium

Lori Jeschke
President, The Canadian Assessment for Learning Network

Spring Fling CAfLN Pop-Up Meeting!!!

Spring Fling CAFLN pop-up meeting!


Where: Prince George BC

What: Dinner at the Twisted Cork

When: Thursday April 21 at 7 pm


Let’s get to know who in our area is working with developing best practices around AFL, and what it looks like in the day to day!

Contact: Eileen Bennison, David Hoy Elem –

Digital Reading

Submitted by: Grant Page

As the membership chair of CAfLN, I have been spending some time searching the internet for contact information of potential members of our network. In doing so, I often am distracted from my original task by websites that speak to AfL. Here are three of those “distractions”:

Unleashing the Promise of Assessment for Learning

Many teachers say that they do “assessment for learning” (AfL), but often their assessment practice does not really reflect the intentions and principles that make AfL powerful. Teachers who understand the “spirit” as well as the “letter” of AfL are continually building their expertise so that they can carefully apply their professional knowledge on a moment-by-moment basis. They are routinely engaged in seeking, reflecting upon, and responding to information from dialogue, demonstration, and observation, with ideas and feedback that are immediate and directed at learning, in real time. These teachers need policy support, organizational structures, and professional development, so that they can use this knowledge and its application to enhance learning for all students. This is the online version of an article written by one of CAfLN’s founders, Lorna Earl, Louis Volante, professor at Brock University and Steven Katz, faculty member in Human Development and Applied Psychology at OISE at the University of Toronto for the Winter 2015 edition of the CEA’s Education Canada.

Assessment for Learning across Canada – Where have we been and where are we are going?

From the same edition of Education Canada, this article discusses the genesis and evolution of assessment for learning (AFL) within Canada and juxtaposes recent developments against the broader international community. The authors also discuss the implications of recent policy shifts, both towards increased accountability and towards incorporating assessment for and as learning into provincial education strategies, and the ongoing tensions that exist between AFL and summative forms of assessment within education systems. Ongoing gaps in the implementation of AFL, due to both practical barriers and the need to develop teacher capacity, do still exist and are being addressed through emerging initiatives across the country to support more effective integration of AFL summarizes the history of AfL in Canada. The article was written by Chris DeLuca, assistant professor at Queen’s University and 2016 CAfLN Conference and Chair along with CAfLN founding member, Lorna Earl, and Louis Volante, professor at Brock University.

Assessing Students’ Affect Related to Assessment for Learning

Published by Rick Stiggins and James Popham, this paper focuses on AfL and student affect or the personal perceptions and predispositions students have about their learning. There is an assessment of the effect of AfL on the way students’ feel about learning. I have used this with my students in middle school as a way to assess my own use of AfL in the classroom. There are three surveys that can be administered to students, a scoring guide and some suggestions for teachers once they have some data. Scoring is easy and teachers can quickly get a sense of how students feel about learning in their classroom.

UPDATED – CAfLN & NOII Pop-Up Meeting – October 26 – Nanaimo, BC

Who: SD 68, 69, 71, 79 and Vancouver Island University

What: Network with colleagues around AfL and Inquiry

Where:  Dover Bay Secondary Library, 6135 McGirr Road Nanaimo, BC

Drive in Flyer Oct 26 2015

Update:  The momentum for Assessment for Learning and Inquiry continues to grow in the mid-island! The second regional gathering of CAfLN/NOII on Vancouver Island was held at Dover Bay Secondary in Nanaimo on Oct. 26th. Over 100 educators representing 5 different districts came together to engage in and deepen our understanding of AfL and inquiry. Paige Fisher and Lynn Brown were masterful facilitators of our conversations starting with an overview of AfL followed by a lively Give and Go strategy where people responded to the prompt “Assessment for learning is important because.” This was followed by a reminder of the importance of learning intentions and a harvesting of specific practical strategies. The session ended with time for networking and discussion of next steps, including plans for involvement with NOII/AESN/Healthy Schools. Some of the next steps shared were: creating more powerful questions, making more meaningful learning intention and incorporating them throughout lessons, feedback to students and engaging parents, more work with spiral of inquiry process, how AfL can improve student engagement, connect learning intentions and big ideas to Aboriginal education, continuing to embed formative assessment through my practice regardless of who I’m lucky enough to be teaching. The next regional gathering will be hosted by Comox School District in January/February. Please stay connected through our CAfLN/NOII Island Network Group on Facebook and through the CAfLN twitter @CAfLNetwork.


NEW – President’s Message – September 2015

cafln-logo-red100The Canadian Assessment for Learning Network

September 2, 2015

Dear CAfLN members,

The Executive has just returned from an exciting summer retreat – mostly work, but a little water play too – and, as a result of our discussions, the coming year, only our third, promises to be our best yet.

While you will see the fruits of our work reflected on the website this Fall, I’d like to share some highlights:

  • A major purpose of our mission is to connect educators across the country who are committed to assessment for learning.  To that end, we will soon be inviting members to complete detailed personal profiles that will enable you to connect directly with other educators who share similar work assignments and interests
  • As well as developing our online and virtual communications, we are examining ways to encourage the creation of local CAfLN groups who are able to meet face-to-face, while staying connected to members across the entire network. Here, for example, is a brief report of a local network in BC:

     The annual CAfLN conference and symposium was held in Nanaimo in the spring of 2015. At that event a desire to continue to meet face-to-face regionally was expressed. On June 1st, 2015, an incredible group of approximately 45 mid Vancouver Island educators gathered in School District 69 to continue the AfL conversations that started at the CAfLN conference. The group was comprised of: student teachers, primary, intermediate, middle and high school teachers, counselors, learning services teachers, school and district based administration, Vancouver Island University staff and represented 4 school districts and VIU. Each person or team brought a resource, question and/or artifact; the group was welcomed and the networking began. Our gathering ended with participants being asked to provide feedback for future gatherings and the overwhelming response was the desire to have opportunities for ongoing conversation – both digitally and face-to-face.

School District 68 will be hosting the next face-to-face opportunity on Monday, Oct. 28, 2015. Please also follow the #CAfLNework and #noiiaesn Twitter hashtags. A Facebook page for the regional group is also being established.

Of course, our annual symposium and conference will continue to be exciting face-to-face events and plans for 2016 are well under way. We ask that you circle the dates on the calendar and note the venue – May 13 and 14 at the Faculty of Education, Queen’s University, Kingston. We hope that such early notification will enable you to make funding and travel arrangements at the beginning of this school year. An early bird poster will be sent to you very soon, with details about the conference coming later this Fall. The conference theme for 2016 is “Moving it Forward: Assessment for Learning in Policy, Research and Practice”. In the meantime, be sure to visit our website ( for the latest details.

And so another summer draws to a close. Shorter than ever, by my reckoning! But a new academic year brings with it a sense of anticipation and excitement. Heeding the message of John Hattie, let’s pledge this year to reflect at the end of each day by asking, “What impact did I have upon all of those with whom I work?”

Have a productive and fulfilling year in whatever context you work. We look forward to meeting you in Kingston, if not before.

Damian Cooper

President, The Canadian Assessment for Learning Network