Jessica Cejnar / Friday, May 22 @ 6:23 p.m. / Education, Emergencies

Del Norte Unified Officials Say Crisis Learning Grading System Emphasizes Equity

A month after students resumed mandatory lessons, Del Norte Unified School District finalized grading models that emphasizes equity during the COVID-19 crisis.

At the transitional kindergarten through eighth-grade levels students won’t be graded based on their ability to master a standard, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Tom Kissinger told trustees Thursday.

Teachers and administrators at Del Norte High School are adopting a pass-fail system rather than letter grades to ensure students’ grades won’t be affected because of their ability to access the curriculum, Kissinger said. The California State University and University of California systems, along with other colleges, have also adopted a pass-fail system rather than standard letter grades, he said.

“There is a tremendous amount of variance in the state as to what an A or a B or a C or a D is or how do you get that,” Kissinger told trustees.

Trustees unanimously approved Del Norte Unified School District’s crisis learning grading system. According to Superintendent Jeff Harris, the board’s decision affects what parents and students will see on their report cards.

Teachers, administrators and classified staff are still determining how they will go about teaching, assigning work and offering feedback to students during a crisis learning environment, Harris said.

Parents with students in transitional kindergarten through fifth-grade will see report cards informing them if their youngster had fully participated and was engaged in distant learning; if they partially participated; or if there was insufficient evidence to measure their students’ participation in their lessons, Kissinger said.

Under the standards portion on the report card, teachers will marked “not reported,” he said.

At the middle school level — sixth- through eighth-grade — teachers will mark a pass or no-grade for each subject area, Kissinger said. Teachers will also indicate if a student has fully or partially participated in the class or if there is insufficient evidence to support their participation.

“No student is dinged on their ability to master a standard because it’s very difficult to determine (if) all of our students are able to do that,” Kissinger said. “But what we can tell is the extent students are able to participate in this crisis distance learning program.”

At Del Norte High School, though students won’t receive letter grades on their report cards, in classes that require a C or better as a pre-requisite for another course, teachers will attest whether the student did C-level work, Harris said. But the student’s report card will only indicate if they failed or passed that particular class, he said.

Harris brought up the equity portion of the proposed crisis learning grading system. He noted that some districts have let students challenge a grade or pass a class through a test.

“I’ve heard of a large district in California where the parent and student will get to pick their grade for the class,” Harris said. “We also heard of local districts that say you have whatever grade you had on the day prior to schools shutting down.”

With DNUSD students missing weeks of instruction, Harris said officials didn’t want seniors at a disadvantage as they enter a CSU or a UC next year. He noted that the grading system will also affect freshmen, sophomores and juniors who want to participate in a sport. Harris said the California Interscholastic Federation — the regulatory body for high school athletics — hasn’t yet issued rules on what their grading requirements will be next year.

Meanwhile, according to Kissinger, the grading system at Sunset High School will remain much the same as was before schools closed on March 16. Most students attending Sunset High School are making up credits they need to graduate, Kissinger said.

“Due to Sunset’s mission to help students get back on track to graduate on time, we began immediately (upon the school closure on March 16th) to offer credit-earning opportunities for all students,” Kissinger’s report stated.

Using Google Classroom and work packets, Sunset staff have done “everything they can” to make sure students can access their lessons, Kissinger said.

“I can’t think of a time when I’ve seen staff, teachers, classified staff and administrators work so closely toward trying to figure something out on behalf of kids,” he said.


Crisis Learning Report Card Marks


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