News

Parents and high school district divided over proposal to temporarily shift to credit/no credit grading system

Amid concerns about equity, Sequoia high school district to decide on grading at April 15 meeting

About 30 Sequoia Union High School District parents and students expressed displeasure with the possibility of a temporary transition to a pass/no pass grading system during a Monday, April 6, school board meeting. Missing from the conversation during the meeting held on teleconferencing service Zoom: socioeconomically disadvantaged families, who may face stressors that limit their abilities to be engaged with schoolwork. Letter grades could be unfair, as all students in the district don’t currently have the same opportunities learning from home, district officials noted.

District officials have proposed a shift away from traditional letter grades for the spring semester in light of the distance learning implemented because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Palo Alto Unified School District moved to a credit/no credit grading system on March 25. Students will accumulate credits without positively or negatively impacting their grade point averages — of particular concern for college-bound seniors and juniors in Palo Alto.

Sequoia district staff suggested several options for grades during the semester: keeping letter grades; offering pass/no pass; or providing students with letter grades, but holding them harmless for their academic performance after March 21. Staff recommends that the board not consider allowing students to choose between a letter grade or pass/no pass option because it doesn’t provide “equity or relief during this time of strain” and could lead college admissions officers to rank lower the students who choose to take a course on a pass/no pass basis.

Although Facebook recently contributed $250,000 to the Sequoia Union High School District to provide 2,000 students access to Wi-Fi hotspots for distance learning, not all students seem to be engaged virtually in their schoolwork. Jarrett Dooley, the district's students services director, said during the Monday meeting, that 15% of its students about 10,000 students have not signed into Canvas, the district's online learning system. He's trying to gather more data on these students and said there’s a chance some of these students have been communicating with teachers to receive schoolwork offline.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Almanac Online for as little as $5/month.

Join

Students in the district who are socioeconomically disadvantaged face multiple stressors, from slow internet shared with other household members to having to pick up extra jobs to help parents who may be out of work because of the virus, said Trustee Georgia Jack.

“There ton of reasons for these kids to have gone missing,” she said.

School board members said that students who choose a pass/no pass option over a letter grade may not be seen as favorably by college admissions.

Districtwide surveys

The district recently conducted two surveys, over email, on the grading topic. One was taken of parents and students (getting 810 responses) and another of certified staff, which got 255 responses.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up for free

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up for free

Parent and student responses indicated that schools were assigning too much distance learning work and that participants would prefer to stick to the current letter grading system, said Bonnie Hansen, assistant superintendent of student services.

Staff members supported adopting a pass/no pass system and also expressed concerns about that not all students have home environments that are conducive to participating in schoolwork. They are also looking for more clarity around academic expectations for students and staff and said they are managing more work, stress and demands in their personal lives, such as taking care of their own children while working.

“There’s been an outpouring of parents who’ve said ‘don’t get rid of letter grades,’’ she said. “There is merit to those concerns. … I wonder how we would be informed if we could see snapshots of our most socioeconomically disadvantaged students' (current situations).” She added that it might become more difficult for students, even for those who aren’t socioeconomically disadvantaged, to focus on school in the coming weeks if their family members become sick.

District officials plan to conduct another survey of parents, teachers and students before the board’s meeting next week that they hope will reach a broader group, by offering the survey in both English and Spanish through text messages. This survey will also include collecting participants’ demographic information.

Leaders of the Sequoia District Teachers Association, which represents teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses and others, have heard from some teachers who feel badly for the students whose hard work wouldn’t be rewarded with a letter grade, said union president Edith Salvatore in an April 3 email.

“While we haven’t had a formal opportunity to poll our members, those who have reached out have had concerns that a move to a pass/no pass grade for the semester will make it more difficult to keep students engaged in the learning activities being offered over the closing quarter of the year,” she said. “The concern is that while some of the more academically engaged students may continue, those who are less prepared or less positioned to lose two months of learning will tune out, which will widen the gap between them for the fall.”

Salvatore mentioned during the meeting that since the teacher survey went out over spring break, there might have been less participation.

In defense of letter grades

Some 765 people signed a Change.org petition as of the afternoon of Friday, April 10, urging the school district not to switch to a pass/no pass grading system this semester.

After hearing from parents and students during the meeting, Trustee Carrie DuBois said she would feel bad taking away letter grades from students who have worked hard. At the same time, she wants the board to prioritize reaching out to students who are disengaged in school right now.

Julie Quinlan, parent of a junior at Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, said she feels there is unfairness in instituting a blanket pass/no pass grading system at this point

“We’re well past halfway through the semester and the kids will feel their work has gone down the drain,” she said.

Parent Susannah Hill said she had a “very strong reaction” when she heard the district could institute a pass/no pass grading system because her son, a junior at M-A, “has worked extraordinarily hard this whole semester” and would like to see that work recognized. She said he’s now even putting in about 11-hour workdays with his distance-learning assignments. She thinks there could be other solutions, such as giving students a quarter grade for the first half of the semester to acknowledge their work up until the March shift to distance learning.

“I do feel like one size does not fit all,” Hill said. “M-A has an incredibly diverse group of kids and they never run a one-size-fits-all school and they shouldn’t run a one-size-fits-all (approach) in this situation.”

The meeting reached the Zoom call’s capacity of 100 participants, more than usually attend a typical board meeting. Superintendent Mary Streshly said next week the district will expand the number of people who can watch the teleconference at one time.

During the public comment period of the meeting, students and parents, mostly from Woodside and M-A high schools, said they didn’t want their hard work from the semester to go to waste.

Daniel Longo, a junior at Woodside High School, said moving to credit/no credit grading would “invalidate hundreds of hours of work.”

Mia Banks, who identified herself as a junior in the school district, said “pass/fail is crazy” and that it would limit future opportunities grades opened up for her.

“School system isn’t focused on getting students excited about learning”

Trustee Chris Thomsen said it was disappointing to hear that many students felt the purpose of their education was to earn good grades so they can be accepted into good colleges.

“The larger message says that we have a school system that isn’t focused on getting students excited about learning,” he said. With the current at-home distance learning situation, he worries teachers will ultimately be grading students based on what their home life is like.

Board Vice President Alan Sarver agreed with Thomsen, noting that he is “disturbed” by the value students are putting on their grades.

“Look at the damage done to students less present in this evening’s discussion,” he said. “We’re looking at balancing and mitigating the damage (of the move to distance learning) to students across a broad spectrum.”

Jack also noted that Advanced Placement tests in May are another way of measuring students’ hard work.

“People are going to hear things that are difficult to hear,” she said. “We have to make decisions beneficial to the entirety of the district.”

How grading system could affect college admissions

Streshly sent a March 27 email to families explaining that the school board will make a decision based on input from teachers, principals, instructional leads, district-level administration, and in consultation with university admissions officials and San Mateo County superintendents.

“In the next week, we are seeking confirmation from a broader higher education community that this change will not negatively impact the future of our high school graduates,” she said in the email.

There is still a lack of clarity from colleges on how they will treat grades for the spring 2020 semester when they are considering applicants, Hansen said. Harvard University has indicated that applications of students whose schools move entirely to credit/no credit systems will not be penalized, but doesn’t indicate how students who opt for credit/no credit over grades will be affected, according to a report prepared by district staff.

University of California, California State University and other colleges have said for spring/summer 2020 they will accept a grade scale of pass/no pass for student admissions if those are the options given by a high school, the report states. They do not say what will happen if a school offers the option of pass/no pass ​or a letter grade.

The board will provide direction next week on grading options at an April 15 meeting.

---

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Online here.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow AlmanacNews.com and The Almanac on Twitter @almanacnews, Facebook and on Instagram @almanacnews for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Parents and high school district divided over proposal to temporarily shift to credit/no credit grading system

Amid concerns about equity, Sequoia high school district to decide on grading at April 15 meeting

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Fri, Apr 10, 2020, 2:21 pm

About 30 Sequoia Union High School District parents and students expressed displeasure with the possibility of a temporary transition to a pass/no pass grading system during a Monday, April 6, school board meeting. Missing from the conversation during the meeting held on teleconferencing service Zoom: socioeconomically disadvantaged families, who may face stressors that limit their abilities to be engaged with schoolwork. Letter grades could be unfair, as all students in the district don’t currently have the same opportunities learning from home, district officials noted.

District officials have proposed a shift away from traditional letter grades for the spring semester in light of the distance learning implemented because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Palo Alto Unified School District moved to a credit/no credit grading system on March 25. Students will accumulate credits without positively or negatively impacting their grade point averages — of particular concern for college-bound seniors and juniors in Palo Alto.

Sequoia district staff suggested several options for grades during the semester: keeping letter grades; offering pass/no pass; or providing students with letter grades, but holding them harmless for their academic performance after March 21. Staff recommends that the board not consider allowing students to choose between a letter grade or pass/no pass option because it doesn’t provide “equity or relief during this time of strain” and could lead college admissions officers to rank lower the students who choose to take a course on a pass/no pass basis.

Although Facebook recently contributed $250,000 to the Sequoia Union High School District to provide 2,000 students access to Wi-Fi hotspots for distance learning, not all students seem to be engaged virtually in their schoolwork. Jarrett Dooley, the district's students services director, said during the Monday meeting, that 15% of its students about 10,000 students have not signed into Canvas, the district's online learning system. He's trying to gather more data on these students and said there’s a chance some of these students have been communicating with teachers to receive schoolwork offline.

Students in the district who are socioeconomically disadvantaged face multiple stressors, from slow internet shared with other household members to having to pick up extra jobs to help parents who may be out of work because of the virus, said Trustee Georgia Jack.

“There ton of reasons for these kids to have gone missing,” she said.

School board members said that students who choose a pass/no pass option over a letter grade may not be seen as favorably by college admissions.

Districtwide surveys

The district recently conducted two surveys, over email, on the grading topic. One was taken of parents and students (getting 810 responses) and another of certified staff, which got 255 responses.

Parent and student responses indicated that schools were assigning too much distance learning work and that participants would prefer to stick to the current letter grading system, said Bonnie Hansen, assistant superintendent of student services.

Staff members supported adopting a pass/no pass system and also expressed concerns about that not all students have home environments that are conducive to participating in schoolwork. They are also looking for more clarity around academic expectations for students and staff and said they are managing more work, stress and demands in their personal lives, such as taking care of their own children while working.

“There’s been an outpouring of parents who’ve said ‘don’t get rid of letter grades,’’ she said. “There is merit to those concerns. … I wonder how we would be informed if we could see snapshots of our most socioeconomically disadvantaged students' (current situations).” She added that it might become more difficult for students, even for those who aren’t socioeconomically disadvantaged, to focus on school in the coming weeks if their family members become sick.

District officials plan to conduct another survey of parents, teachers and students before the board’s meeting next week that they hope will reach a broader group, by offering the survey in both English and Spanish through text messages. This survey will also include collecting participants’ demographic information.

Leaders of the Sequoia District Teachers Association, which represents teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses and others, have heard from some teachers who feel badly for the students whose hard work wouldn’t be rewarded with a letter grade, said union president Edith Salvatore in an April 3 email.

“While we haven’t had a formal opportunity to poll our members, those who have reached out have had concerns that a move to a pass/no pass grade for the semester will make it more difficult to keep students engaged in the learning activities being offered over the closing quarter of the year,” she said. “The concern is that while some of the more academically engaged students may continue, those who are less prepared or less positioned to lose two months of learning will tune out, which will widen the gap between them for the fall.”

Salvatore mentioned during the meeting that since the teacher survey went out over spring break, there might have been less participation.

In defense of letter grades

Some 765 people signed a Change.org petition as of the afternoon of Friday, April 10, urging the school district not to switch to a pass/no pass grading system this semester.

After hearing from parents and students during the meeting, Trustee Carrie DuBois said she would feel bad taking away letter grades from students who have worked hard. At the same time, she wants the board to prioritize reaching out to students who are disengaged in school right now.

Julie Quinlan, parent of a junior at Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, said she feels there is unfairness in instituting a blanket pass/no pass grading system at this point

“We’re well past halfway through the semester and the kids will feel their work has gone down the drain,” she said.

Parent Susannah Hill said she had a “very strong reaction” when she heard the district could institute a pass/no pass grading system because her son, a junior at M-A, “has worked extraordinarily hard this whole semester” and would like to see that work recognized. She said he’s now even putting in about 11-hour workdays with his distance-learning assignments. She thinks there could be other solutions, such as giving students a quarter grade for the first half of the semester to acknowledge their work up until the March shift to distance learning.

“I do feel like one size does not fit all,” Hill said. “M-A has an incredibly diverse group of kids and they never run a one-size-fits-all school and they shouldn’t run a one-size-fits-all (approach) in this situation.”

The meeting reached the Zoom call’s capacity of 100 participants, more than usually attend a typical board meeting. Superintendent Mary Streshly said next week the district will expand the number of people who can watch the teleconference at one time.

During the public comment period of the meeting, students and parents, mostly from Woodside and M-A high schools, said they didn’t want their hard work from the semester to go to waste.

Daniel Longo, a junior at Woodside High School, said moving to credit/no credit grading would “invalidate hundreds of hours of work.”

Mia Banks, who identified herself as a junior in the school district, said “pass/fail is crazy” and that it would limit future opportunities grades opened up for her.

“School system isn’t focused on getting students excited about learning”

Trustee Chris Thomsen said it was disappointing to hear that many students felt the purpose of their education was to earn good grades so they can be accepted into good colleges.

“The larger message says that we have a school system that isn’t focused on getting students excited about learning,” he said. With the current at-home distance learning situation, he worries teachers will ultimately be grading students based on what their home life is like.

Board Vice President Alan Sarver agreed with Thomsen, noting that he is “disturbed” by the value students are putting on their grades.

“Look at the damage done to students less present in this evening’s discussion,” he said. “We’re looking at balancing and mitigating the damage (of the move to distance learning) to students across a broad spectrum.”

Jack also noted that Advanced Placement tests in May are another way of measuring students’ hard work.

“People are going to hear things that are difficult to hear,” she said. “We have to make decisions beneficial to the entirety of the district.”

How grading system could affect college admissions

Streshly sent a March 27 email to families explaining that the school board will make a decision based on input from teachers, principals, instructional leads, district-level administration, and in consultation with university admissions officials and San Mateo County superintendents.

“In the next week, we are seeking confirmation from a broader higher education community that this change will not negatively impact the future of our high school graduates,” she said in the email.

There is still a lack of clarity from colleges on how they will treat grades for the spring 2020 semester when they are considering applicants, Hansen said. Harvard University has indicated that applications of students whose schools move entirely to credit/no credit systems will not be penalized, but doesn’t indicate how students who opt for credit/no credit over grades will be affected, according to a report prepared by district staff.

University of California, California State University and other colleges have said for spring/summer 2020 they will accept a grade scale of pass/no pass for student admissions if those are the options given by a high school, the report states. They do not say what will happen if a school offers the option of pass/no pass ​or a letter grade.

The board will provide direction next week on grading options at an April 15 meeting.

---

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Online here.

Comments

Matt J
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 11, 2020 at 8:41 am
Matt J, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 11, 2020 at 8:41 am

So Trustees Thomsen and Sarver are disappointed that some students value their grades, and don't want to see their hard work devalued? When is the next school board election - they've got to go.


Ohnono
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 13, 2020 at 10:04 am
Ohnono, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 13, 2020 at 10:04 am

I would not encourage or reward any teen to work 11 hours a day for a handful of letters that will only get the most cursory attention of college admissions staff.

Value your time, students, and consider all the other possible uses.


David B
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 13, 2020 at 1:03 pm
David B, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 13, 2020 at 1:03 pm

@ohnono welcome to the world of high-achieving students who have become convinced (right or wrong) that the path to a successful future goes through a highly-selective college.


Margo
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 13, 2020 at 2:26 pm
Margo, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 13, 2020 at 2:26 pm

It seems to me there are 2 issues here. One is students who hope to graduate from high school, possibly continue at community college. They could be given a CHOICE of a letter grade or pass/fail. The second issue involves students who are headed to higher education so would certainly want a letter grade. We forget that some students will be the first in the family to complete high school. We want to encourage that and encourage further study. Hence the choice. One writer was right on in pointing out our schools don't serve a one-size-fits-all community. I support choices in every situation possible.


Steve Taffee
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 13, 2020 at 3:11 pm
Steve Taffee, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 13, 2020 at 3:11 pm

The current letter grading system in all schools is a terrible way to assess student progress. It's arbitrary, highly subjective, easily manipulated gy social factors, and meaningless in highly competitive schools where angry parents will try to get a teacher fired if their child gets a anything lower than a B.

However, I am not in favor of using the virus crisis as the excuse to address this terrible system. Meaningful student assessment should requires study, exploration of alternatives, coordination across the district and grade levels, and communication with colleges. Meanwhile, letting graduating seniors (whenever graduation occurs) choose letters or Pass/Fail seems to me to be a reasonable way to go, but all subjects or none. and the transcripts for all students should include a disclaimer that explains that Pass/Fail or letter grades are an option, Pass could equate to anything from an A+ to a D-, how much instruction happened virtually vs on-campus, and any other information the schools wishes to include about how the school addressed the CORONA virus shutdown, academic continuity, and assessment practices.


Anonymous
Woodside: other
on Apr 13, 2020 at 3:41 pm
Anonymous, Woodside: other
on Apr 13, 2020 at 3:41 pm

I'm writing this as someone who's older kid graduated from a Sequoia Union high school and then went to Stanford, and who's younger kid is in high school now. So I am certainly aware of and concerned with grades and the impact on college admissions.

Having said that, I'm in favor of either the mandatory pass/fail or hold harmless options the district is considering. There is simply too big a difference in home environments and tool availability to make letter grading fair. Two equally smart and studious kids could get very different outcomes because one is stuck in a 2 bedroom apartment with siblings and two parents who are suddenly unemployed, while the other has their own bedroom and office to work from and two parents who are working from home and have no economic worries.


bemused
another community
on Apr 13, 2020 at 4:30 pm
bemused, another community
on Apr 13, 2020 at 4:30 pm

As a parent of an M-A, college bound junior, I would prefer across the board credit/no credit. If it's a choice, obviously colleges will give preference to those who chose a grade. The pretense of offering an option which none can 'afford' to take is worse than not offering it in the first place, imho. I'm sure few parents will agree with me. I'm in the minority in my belief that grades are a poor motivator of learning in the first place.


Dawn1234
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 14, 2020 at 12:19 pm
Dawn1234, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 14, 2020 at 12:19 pm

Trustee Chris Thomsen said it was disappointing to hear that many students felt the purpose of their education was to earn good grades so they can be accepted into good colleges.

“The larger message says that we have a school system that isn’t focused on getting students excited about learning,” he said. With the current at-home distance learning situation, he worries teachers will ultimately be grading students based on what their home life is like.

Board Vice President Alan Sarver agreed with Thomsen, noting that he is “disturbed” by the value students are putting on their grades.

This! This is what the conversation should be focused on. This is the part that matters the most. It is important to consider which voices were really heard in these input gathering sessions.


Soccer mom
Menlo Park: other
on Apr 14, 2020 at 3:30 pm
Soccer mom, Menlo Park: other
on Apr 14, 2020 at 3:30 pm

I have a junior at M-A and my student and I voted for the hold harmless approach. In a perfect world, I would love nothing more than high school be about getting students of all circumstances to sample subjects and get excited about learning, and then applying that curiosity into higher education. Unfortunately, reality is nowhere close. Until colleges and universities stop emphasizing GPA and test scores, high school students will continue to care about their letter grades. Yes, I know there is a school for everyone who successfully completes high school. But students who want more options, or have a specific area of focus, do need to work toward higher letter grades and take harder classes to stand out. We as parents can help our students by not emphasizing certain locations, encouraging them to find the right fit for THEM, and reinforcing that who they are today will continue to evolve no matter where they end up. In the current rules of the college game, that is the most control we have (and by the way, this process is further propagated by companies naming colleges and universities in their job requirements). Forcing Pass/Fail on all students with the argument that it's more fair to the greater population ignores the fact that it's a small group of students who are not participating in remote learning. M-A offered computers and hotspots to students who don't have one or both. In that group, there are certainly students who have checked out for whatever reason, including the need to support their families. But I believe it's a small percentage and therefore should not be the reason to take away the letter grades from the larger population of students who want them. The hold harmless approach is a fair way to address those who continue to work at their classes and those whose circumstances have led them to not participate. 


bemused
another community
on Apr 14, 2020 at 6:00 pm
bemused, another community
on Apr 14, 2020 at 6:00 pm

Unfortunately the "hold harmless" option will result in meaningless grades. A student who had an 'A' before the switch to distance learning can completely stop attending and still end up with an 'A'. The grade will have zero reflection on what content the student mastered. Same for students with B's, C's, etc. The pass/fail option is the only option that requires continued engagement but at the same time acknowledges that our public high schools are not set up for distance learning and as a result any sort of letter grade will be meaningless. Colleges will simply have to adjust their GPA cut-offs. They already will have to consider students without SAT/ACT scores, and also adjust for differently administered AP exams (at home, lol, like there is even the slightest way to prevent cheating in that environment).


editoratlarge
another community
on Apr 14, 2020 at 6:07 pm
editoratlarge, another community
on Apr 14, 2020 at 6:07 pm

I’ve been working from home for five years and now have been joined by my two HS kids. I can see my own performance being impacted negatively by increased noise, much slower internet and constant interruptions. How do we expect kids who are new at this even under the best of circumstances to go on like nothing has changed? Really shocked at some parents who keep chanting about grades like we all have perfect WiFi and no economic stress etc.


member
Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 15, 2020 at 6:48 am
member, Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 15, 2020 at 6:48 am

This is incorrect reporting. Palo Alto was first to announce Credit/No Credit and had not thought through the specific impacts to students' GPAs. The superintendent made the decision unilaterally through emergency powers without a board vote or parent input. In particular, this policy absolutely impacts sophomores and juniors whose S2 grades factor into their college admissions. UC has confirmed they will only use letter grades in their GPA calculations. And neither UCs nor Palo Alto admin have been able to clarify how exactly they make this GPA neutral. Palo Alto students have just lost all their honors/AP weight points for this semester. This is absolutely not GPA neutral for half of our high school population. Palo Alto students are opting into private and online alternatives to get grades. It also puts C/NC districts behind other districts who are moving towards figuring out how to assess work and provide grades through distance learning which looks to be a necessity until 2021. A very clearly laid out model is in South Pasadena: Web Link


parent
Menlo Park: other
on Apr 15, 2020 at 6:50 am
parent, Menlo Park: other
on Apr 15, 2020 at 6:50 am

This is incorrect reporting. Palo Alto was first to announce Credit/No Credit and had not thought through the specific impacts to students' GPAs. The superintendent made the decision unilaterally through emergency powers without a board vote or parent input. In particular, this policy absolutely impacts sophomores and juniors whose S2 grades factor into their college admissions. UC has confirmed they will only use letter grades in their GPA calculations. And neither UCs nor Palo Alto admin have been able to clarify how exactly they make this GPA neutral. Palo Alto students have just lost all their honors/AP weight points for this semester. This is absolutely not GPA neutral for half of our high school population. Palo Alto students are opting into private and online alternatives to get grades. It also puts C/NC districts behind other districts who are moving towards figuring out how to assess work and provide grades through distance learning which looks to be a necessity until 2021. A very clearly laid out model is in South Pasadena.


Soccer mom
Menlo Park: other
on Apr 15, 2020 at 10:34 am
Soccer mom, Menlo Park: other
on Apr 15, 2020 at 10:34 am

@bemused: I agree with your assessment but unfortunately SUHSD only offered hold harmless and pass/fail as options to vote for, so anyone who wants letter grades is forced to vote that direction. Hold harmless also addresses the issues faced by all income levels, in their various forms: some students don't learn well in this format, bandwidth issues, greater things to worry about, etc. I do believe motivated students will continue to work at their classes and those taking AP classes certainly have to keep up to perform well on the AP tests in May.

The South Pasadena approach (thank you for sharing, @parent/@member) is interesting with a choice of C/NC by May 27 and weighting the second semester grades differently by third and fourth quarter. Granted, South Pas probably has a less diverse population and the high school is only 1400+ students. I wonder if options like this were considered by the SUHSD board? My real vote would have been to provide some option of choice but assumed the board was not willing to do that for logistical reasons.


Concernedparent
Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 16, 2020 at 5:05 pm
Concernedparent, Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 16, 2020 at 5:05 pm

How did the district vote last night?
Numerous California state districts have announced they will issue final semester letter grades. Most of these are establishing “hold harmless” policies, wherein final semester grades will be no lower than third quarter. Districts giving semester grades include the three largest districts in the state (Los Angeles Unified, San Diego Unified, and Fresno Unified), plus numerous others such as Los Gatos/Saratoga, Alameda, Sacramento City Unified, Santa Rosa City Schools, Corona-Norco and more. South Pasadena is offering students a choice of letter grades as default or C/NC, and Jefferson Unified (Daly City) is offering either letter grade (for an A, B, or C) or Pass (for a D or F).


Angela Swartz, Almanac Staff Writer
another community
on Apr 16, 2020 at 5:08 pm
Angela Swartz, Almanac Staff Writer, another community
on Apr 16, 2020 at 5:08 pm

@Concernedparent a story is forthcoming, but the board voted to move to credit/no credit.


MP parent
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 16, 2020 at 5:28 pm
MP parent, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 16, 2020 at 5:28 pm

Angela,

Do you have an email address and if so, what is it?


Angela Swartz, Almanac Staff Writer
another community
on Apr 16, 2020 at 5:47 pm
Angela Swartz, Almanac Staff Writer, another community
on Apr 16, 2020 at 5:47 pm
bemused
another community
on Apr 16, 2020 at 6:53 pm
bemused, another community
on Apr 16, 2020 at 6:53 pm

@Concernedparent, I was able to 'zoom' into last nights meeting and listen to the discussion. I hope it is available by video because I think a lot of points were raised on both sides that I was not aware of or had not given a lot of thought to. It was also great to hear some students speak. I did think P/NP was the best option going in, but I understand now better exactly how much anxiety the lack of grades will cause many students, especially those who were trying to hit a GPA goal for college admissions. Today SUHSD sent an email to parents with summary of reasons for the board's decision. The vote was 3-2, so I think it was clear to everyone there was no perfect solution, P/NP just seems like the better of two flawed options.


Michael Craig
another community
on Apr 16, 2020 at 7:56 pm
Michael Craig, another community
on Apr 16, 2020 at 7:56 pm

Carlmont High School parent here. Just found out about this today from my daughter who is a Senior up for a merit scholarship. We received NO notification via email or voicemail that there was even a discussion going on about changing traditional grading to Pass/Fail. How does this happen? Also, why does the District get to decide there is only 2 options and traditional grading is not one of them. This decision is all about protecting the few at the cost of many. Are some kids disadvantaged and maybe don't have a laptop at home. Quite possibly instead of making everyone Pass/Fail, why not take into account that over 65% want traditional grades and that includes kids and parents and make exceptions for those with limited computer access or sick families at home. If one person in a community is sick, we treat that one person with appropriate care and medicine. We don't have to give everyone the same medicine or treatment if they don't need it. I am sure many parents who are well off would be happy to contribute to a GoFundMe page to buy laptops for those that need them and be OK with them choosing Pass/Fail based on their difficult circumstances. Forcing everyone to go Pass/Fail wether they have difficult home situations or not isn't the way we should go. I will happily contribute money to that fund. Speaking of which, what happened to the $250,000 the school already got to do this? Please clarify where those funds went. Also, lastly, I find it hard to believe that parents don't have wifi at home when they pay hundreds of dollars a month for cable TV and most likely an internet connectivity as well. Get the kids laptops and treat each student as an individual. Just like the government isn't giving every business a free loan, we should verify the true needs of our students and fulfill it rather than a one-size-fits-all policy that clearly doesn't work for everyone.


bemused
another community
on Apr 16, 2020 at 8:25 pm
bemused, another community
on Apr 16, 2020 at 8:25 pm

@Michael Craig, I received emails, not voicemails, starting April 5 from both SUHSD ([email protected]) and Menlo-Atherton admin about discussions regarding grading for spring semester, including the option to participate in a survey and notification that the board would be making a decision on this last night. I would definitely try to track down why you are not receiving emails from SUHSD as I imagine other important information will continue to be sent from them. I can't speak to what information San Carlos provided to parents.

As for the P/NP option being chosen, since you're just hearing about it, I'm sure it's a shock. The question of equity is definitely a piece of that decision, but it's more complex than that. Another, equally important consideration is the degree to which grades will be meaningful given that faculty are trying to adjust an in-school curriculum to distance learning. So even if there were no disadvantaged students to consider, I believe many would still have come to the conclusion that P/NP was still the best option at this time. JMHO. I know this is an extremely stressful situation for students and parents. I have a junior at M-A and her GPA will be significantly affected without the contribution of the AP classes she's taking this semester.


MP Resident
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 16, 2020 at 10:20 pm
MP Resident, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 16, 2020 at 10:20 pm

None of the options are very good here. The school district doesn't get the option of "best", they this is a case of "which of these three options is the least bad?"

Regular grading doesn't take into account MANY changes in circumstances - of students, teachers, and families. It also doesn't take into account that there are HUGE differences in teachers' abilities to teach a distance class they didn't plan to teach as a distance class.

"Hold Harmless" is complicated - some classes are heavily weighted towards grades early in the semester, some late, some teachers grade quickly and some grade slowly. It also has significant potential for gaming by both teachers and students.

Pass / No Credit puts everybody on a more even footing, is harder to game than "hold harmless", and takes into account the changes in circumstances that are hitting everybody. It's also a lot simpler, and there's quite a bit of value in that given how many moving parts the whole remote transition has.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.