A little bit about a lot of things:

• Should students get partial credit or a zero for assignments not turned in?

That seems to be the primary question surrounding the new, temporary Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District grading policy for middle school and high school students which was adopted last week by the school board.

While I understand the philosophy behind the policy to a point, I hesitate to endorse a practice that essentially gives students credit for work not done and sends a message that they can do nothing for long periods of time and still catch up enough to pass a course.

The case can be made that students who can demonstrate knowledge of the standards deserve credit for that regardless of how many assignments they turned in. And yes, a student who does nothing through the entire grading period is still going to fail at 50 percent.

But I don’t know that the policy reflects the real life for which we should be preparing students.

I would like to think that our teachers are not punitive in their grading practices, and that a student who is truly making an effort will not be failed.

And, yes, some consideration is definitely in order given the challenges of distance learning in the midst of a pandemic - such as a reasonable opportunity to make up unfinished assignments. Certainly students should be held harmless in some circumstances....but should that be the norm?

The real issue seems to be one of students not even making an effort to turn in their work at all.

One teacher’s letter spoke to how many students simply stopped doing their assigned work in the spring after learning that a hold-harmless grading system had been implemented.

Does a grading system in which a student receives 50 percent credit for work not turned in promote just that behavior?

I understand that students are dealing with many challenges, ranging from mental health issues to difficult home-life situations to tenuous internet access, during this pandemic and sympathize with that.

Again, I would expect that appropriate accommodations would be extended.

But at some point personal responsibility comes into play, does it not?

The reality is that almost all of us are dealing with some degree of change, hardship and challenges in the pandemic. Those take many forms.

But even faced with difficult circumstances, we are all accountable for the choices we make.

I don’t particularly care for attending meetings via Zoom or telephone. And I hate having to do interviews by phone. But if I just said “nope, not doing it,” my guess is that a paycheck would stop arriving. And understandably so.

I have no doubt distance learning is difficult for many students.

And in the best of scenarios, the education they are receiving remotely is not equivalent to that delivered in a traditional classroom......which makes me wonder how far students will fall behind before all this is over.

No perfect solution exists, as there are often extenuating circumstances surrounding a student’s difficulty in completing assignments. That is where the good judgment and compassion of teachers comes into play.....as long as the student’s effort is there.

But I am not sure what interests are served or message is sent by giving credit to students who simply choose not to do the work.

It would seem that, from a layman’s point of view, condoning that could further disconnect the student from his or her education, whereas holding students accountable and responsible for at least making the effort may be motivation for engagement and honest effort.

• The holidays are upon us.....and like many things they won’t be what we have come to expect as normal. But the holidays will be celebrated in some form.

On Saturday after Thanksgiving, a group in Gustine will be serving up the traditional community breakfast in takeout form. The Old-Fashioned Christmas at Home festivities will be limited to essentially a holiday craft fair. No lighted parade this year, much to the disappointment of many, and the tree-lighting will be virtual.

In Newman, organizers are discussing options for a virtual holiday celebration.

The Gustine Recreation Department and Gustine Police Department will be holding a “Christmas in the Parks” event Wednesday evening, Dec. 16. Sponsors and volunteers are needed for each park. Those seeking additional information may email Tiffany Vitorino, tvitorino@cityofgustine.com.

More details to come on those events.....but the holiday spirit will definitely be celebrated in our communities!

• And speaking of holidays.....Thanksgiving is just a week away, a time to remind ourselves of the blessings we have in our lives even while facing the hardships of the pandemic.

The Index and Press-Standard will be coming out a day earlier next week, so any news or advertising items for those editions should be turned in no later than 5 p.m. Friday.

• We have a bit of new information regarding the planned improvements to the memorial honoring fallen Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh....donations supporting that project may be made payable to the Newman Police Officers Association, PO Box 787, Newman, CA 95360.

Dean Harris the Managing Editor of the West Side Index and Gustine Press-Standard. He can be reached at dharris@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 243-8104.