As the school year winds down, local educators are re-evaluating their grading practices to take into consideration the impact of COVID-19 and distance learning.
Jordan Public Schools Director of Teaching and Learning Erin Hjelmeland told the school board Monday night that concerns for student equity are driving the issue, as the district takes into account the fact that many students lack immediate access to teachers, experience technology issues, are living with economic challenges, and receive varying levels of home support.
The administration developed a new grading system that will go into effect for the end of the school year. The system follows new Minnesota Department of Education guidelines, which suggest standard A-F grading may not be appropriate under current circumstances.
Jordan middle and high school students who earn an A, B or C in their second semester coursework will be given that grade, Hjelmeland said, but students will not be given Ds or Fs. Instead, students who participated in distance learning will be given a P, for pass. Students who put no effort into distance learning will earn no grade and will not be given credit for the course.
“Those grades go on the transcripts and they have greater impact beyond secondary education ... no students will receive a D or an F because of the impact that can have on transcripts that is unfair during this distance learning time,” Hjelmeland said.
At the elementary level, students will receive traditional grades for work completed through the third quarter, but work completed during distance learning will be used to modify that grade if necessary.
“Any work completed during distance learning would be used to perhaps raise the grade but it wouldn’t lessen the grade,” Hjelmeland said.
Students enrolled in College in Schools and Post Secondary Enrollment Option courses, however, are subject to their institution’s grading policies.
The education department also cautions districts against holding students back a grade level due to difficulties related to the pandemic. Instead, it’s recommended that schools provide make-up content for struggling students at the conclusion of distance learning. The JPS calendar already dedicates five days at the end of the semester to student intervention, allowing them to make up missed work.
Hjelmeland said the new grading system was shared with and supported by school staff.