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Guest opinion: Why we oppose pass/no pass grading for Sequoia district students

Original post made on Apr 25, 2020

In a guest opinion, a group of Sequoia Union High School District parents explain why they oppose the school board's recent decision to implement pass/no pass grading for this semester.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, April 25, 2020, 8:47 AM

Comments (38)

Posted by Outside looking in
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 25, 2020 at 9:04 am

Wouldn’t it be beneficial if the district allowed students to opt in for a grade as well as having a pass no pass system? Students could email their teacher and ask for a final grade? Just my thoughts. Thank you for your thoughtful opinion.

Posted by Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2020 at 12:26 pm

A large percentage of districts are implementing a safety net system to prevent grades from dropping from the date of SIP, providing a semester letter grade and/or offering students a choice. There are almost 1000 California school districts, it is very likely many more choose these supportive and progessive grading policies in order to uphold their primary goal of doing no harm to students.

Most of the largest districts have announced they will issue final semester letter grades. Nearly all of these are establishing “hold harmless” or “safety net” policies, in which the final semester grades will be no lower than third quarter. These districts include:

Los Angeles Unified

San Diego Unified

Fresno Unified

San Bernardino

Elk Grove

Sacramento City Unified


Many other districts are providing a safety net with the final semester grades no lower than third quarter. The districts include:

ABC United
Alameda Unified
Central Unified
Chaffey Joint
Chino Valley
East Side Union
Glendale Unified,
Healdsburg Unified
La Cañada
Los Gatos/Saratoga
Murrieta Valley
Orange Unified,
Palm Springs
Riverside Unified
San Jacinto
Santa Maria
Santa Rosa City Schools
Sweetwater Union
Temecula Valley,
Tracy Unified
West Sonoma County High School District
William S. Hart USD
Windsor Unified

Many districts are offering student choice. These districts include:

Roseville Joint

Jefferson Union

San Marcos Unified

South Pasadena

Lodi Unified

El Dorado Hills

Roseville Joint

San Marcos Unified

San Juan


Bishop Unified



Posted by A. Parent
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 26, 2020 at 3:58 am

Facts Matter.

Over 52.9% of SUHSD teachers voted against the Pass/No Pass option.

At least 55% of parents and students communicated they wanted a choice other than Pass /No Pass.

Over a million students in districts across California, including 8 of the 10 largest, and dozens with the same demographics as the SUHSD instituted Hold Harmless grade floor policies.

Yet, by listening to Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Hansen's presentation in the April 15th board meeting, you never would have known this.

Faulty district data capturing methods, faulty data presentation, and faulty presentation of viable options by district staff led to a faulty decision by 3 of the 5 SUHSD board members.

Here are just a few of the issues:

Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Hansen states a couple hours into the meeting "So the reason that we think Pass/No Pass is a really good option, all things considered, is because it's the viable option that was most supported by students and parents." However, just five minutes before that, in a word salad of numbers Hansen rattled off, she stated that 51% of the Thought Exchange comments they were able to discern an opinion from, were in support of Hold Harmless, and another 4% were in support of Status Quo grades, with only 45% in favor of Pass/ No Pass.

Also, Hansen states "the most popular option amongst teachers was Pass/No Pass" BUT, in reality, only 47.1 percent of teachers wanted Pass/No Pass. The others wanted some other form of grades, either Hold Harmless or Status Quo grading.

Hansen herself admits that the parent/student Thought Exchange statistics are based on her staff having to infer people's desires because a clear multiple choice question wasn't presented to the community. Based on the fact that of the 15 highly rated thoughts displayed on Thought Exchange at the time of its close, (these can currently be viewed here Web Link 12 were in support of Hold Harmless, 1 was in support of some type of grading, 1 was unclear, and 1 thought was in support of Pass/ No Pass. the 51% support statistic that Hansen reported for Hold Harmless was likely a significant underestimation.

Hansen in further iterating her preference against Hold Harmless states "So it doesn't seem like a very good option, or maybe even an option." At this point, even though many California Districts had yet to make a decision on their grading policy, LA County, the largest district in the state, had already decided to move forward with Hold Harmless, in addition to countless others, many of which have similar demographics to SUHSD.

The first stated role of the Board of the Trustees in the District By-laws states: "The Board of Trustees has been elected by the community to provide leadership and citizen oversight of the district. The Board shall ensure that the district is responsive to the values, beliefs, and priorities of the community" And in numerous locations in the By-laws, it makes clear that it is the Board of Trustees duty to do what's best for the students.

With missing information, and misrepresented information presented at the Board meeting, the Board couldn't properly do their job.

The board should hold an emergency session at it's next board meeting to reconsider its decision, request accurate data be presented, consider the advice of mental health professionals, some of whom already expressed to the board that their decision is more harmful than notl, and truly deliberate the best path forward.

Posted by A Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2020 at 9:49 am

I disagree - letter grading is extremely inequitable for students who are actually socioeconomically disadvantaged. Those students are most susceptible to harm from COVID, as they likely have parents/guardians who cannot afford to social distance (since they may be essential workers), thus putting these kids and their families at constant exposure to the virus. THIS would be what's affecting their mental health, and having to worry about maintaining high letter grades might simply make it even harder. For students whose parents can social distance and stay relatively safe, yes, their only task might be school. But for other students who have to take care of both their schooling and families? Letter grading will make it extremely hard.

Let's suppose a student needed these grades for college. Likely, high ranking institutions would not take someone who all of a sudden, turned their grades around second-semester junior year. There would have had to be some sort of upward trend, starting either late freshman year or early sophomore year. This could be expanded upon in the school's personal statements. (I recognize that some schools lack personal statements, in which case I would hope that they are altering admissions in a way that allows students to explain their scores - however, all UCs and Common App schools require personal statements). Colleges have stated that they will take these circumstances into account, and students will have more than enough space on applications to talk about their academics as it relates to this pandemic. However, a student's last-minute salvaging of their GPA would most likely not demonstrate upward trending grades, eliminating the argument that these semester grades were the deciding factor.

I feel that the understanding of the word "equity" in this opinion is a bit misguided. The default switch to P/NP was the most equitable decision the district could have made when taking into account the very real experiences some students might be facing. Perhaps an option for students to opt-out? But, as I mentioned, students either do very well all throughout high school and do not necessarily need this semester's GPA, or they have demonstrated an upward trend that could be explained in the personal statement. Colleges have explicitly stated they are definitely going to re-wire admissions to take circumstances into account.

Posted by Anthony Marcos
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 26, 2020 at 11:01 am

I think President Peter said it best at the meeting when he said that equity should be a matter of bringing those below up and not suppressing those higher down. The pass/no pass decision was wrong and not an equitable decision.

Posted by Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2020 at 1:57 pm

Equity gives each student what he or she needs to perform at an acceptable level.

The district is allowing 1,000 students to fail and those students had passing grades up to March 13. This is because the pass/fail option does not provide a grade safety net. Many of the students have not been able to engage in distance learning since March 13 because they have been caring for younger siblings, working full time to support their families, living is a home which is not conducive to studying, etc.

Is it equitable to let those 1,000 students fail because they don’t have the same opportunities to study?

Posted by University Admissions
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 26, 2020 at 4:58 pm

Are grades from this school year even relevant? If I were a university admissions officer, I would be ignoring the year’s results across the board.

Posted by bemused
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 26, 2020 at 6:10 pm

I support the pass/no pass decision. (I have a junior at MA whose GPA would have increased due to AP classes taken this semester.) I agree with @University Admissions that this semester's grades are going to be mostly meaningless. As an alternative, the board could have saved itself all this outrage by choosing an "all A" grading scheme a la San Francisco. Students, or maybe more accurately parents, who are stressed by GPAs, would be happy, and colleges would ignore this semester's grades like they should do regardless.

Posted by Redwood City Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2020 at 11:52 am

I believe that Pass/No Pass will have many unintended consequences, making this decision by SUHSD wrong for all students. I am so impressed that Washington State Superintendent of Public Education is taking a stand for our kids, and over-ruling some of the decisions made at the District level. See below for what Superintendent Chris Reykdal decided:

"In high schools, our students face post-secondary consequences that are the difference between gaining access to well-paying jobs and health benefits or not. Grading implicates hundreds of millions of dollars in scholarship opportunities. Grading systems can impact military recruiting, college athletics, access to college majors, and more. But grading systems also shine a spotlight on the inequities of an education system that despite real progress, still functions in high correlation to family income and access to enrichment activities.

To put it simply, we have built a national education system at the high school level around seat time and grades, even as the experts have challenged us to think more critically about deeper learning, critical thinking, and problem solving. It is why Washington state has been moving away from tasks, worksheets, and voluminous assignments and instead toward more focus on powerful learning standards. What students should know and be able to do is a far more iii important question than how many assignments they turn in on time. Now is a moment for learning standards!

In this global crisis, teachers are overwhelmed, parents and guardians are overwhelmed, and many of our students are overwhelmed. Getting through all the chapters and all the assignments is not our priority right now. Checking in with students and families and offering continuous learning against a handful of critical standards is our need. Together, we have eight weeks to ensure that all our students have the most essential building blocks in place to achieve success in their next class, their next grade, and their next pursuit.

For these reasons and after much thoughtful counsel from education stakeholders, I have made the decision to eliminate the pass/fail grading option as a matter of state policy. It is neither equitable, informative of student learning, nor is there a guarantee that it won’t harm students in future educational pursuits."

Here is a link to his Grading Guidelines, if you are interest in reading:
Web Link

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 27, 2020 at 12:31 pm

I have to agree that the best way to take care of all of the students would have been to provide a safety net/hold harmless grading scheme. How does pass/fail help the students who are unable to effectively participate in online classes and who are now at risk of failing? Also, folks seem to think that the desire to keep a grading system is entirely based on getting into college - this isn't true and the commenter who noted that colleges won't look at this semester is probably right. However, grades are a great motivator and give the kids who are fortunate enough to be able to continue with school something to work for. If all of a sudden you are told you only need a D- to pass a class it's an odd message and one that doesn't motivate kids to continue their schoolwork. Anyone who thinks that teenagers should be entirely self-motivated to learn are living in denial. Seems that the school board was unduly pressured by the teachers union to adopt a losing proposition for the students.

Posted by Tricia
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 27, 2020 at 12:48 pm

The board decision completely goes against what the community wanted - and according to the info above, what the majority of teachers wanted.

In a very straightforward survey from the M-A PTA, the community overwhelming asked for "Hold Harmless".

Survey said:

1) The SUHSD Board is considering 2 options for the second semester grading policy. Which of the following options do you support?

-Pass/No Pass
-"Hold Harmless": all students would receive letter grades but ones that could only improve from the letter grade they held on the last day of traditional instruction
- Other:

2) What is the reason for your preference?

In over 250 responses,
65% voted for Hold Harmless
24% voted Pass/No Pass
11% voted for an alternative solution (many were variants of the 2 options)

In contrast, instead of a true survey, the district provided parents a "survey" that was really more of an "ideation platform" (ThoughtExchange) which crowdsources ideas and then people vote on ideas. Asst Superintendent Hanson said there were over 5000 ideas generated. That is hardly the survey the district promised on April 6th.

Distance learning models often exacerbate existing inequities and its unfair to penalize students who might have been at a "pass" level when distance learning started.

It is also unfair to penalize college-bound juniors by denying progress be included into their transcripts. This can impact their admissions options, the ability to receive scholarships, access to college majors, military recruiting, college athletics and more. We just don't know enough at this point.

That's why other states, like Washington, are *prohibiting* the credit / no credit model that Sequoia Union High School District opted for!

Web Link

I love the quote the from Washington State Superintendent:

"I have made the decision to eliminate the pass/fail grading option as a matter of state policy. It is neither equitable, informative of student learning, nor is there a guarantee that it won’t harm students in future educational pursuits."

Come on, Sequoia Union High School District! We can do better for our community than a one-size-fits-all credit / no credit that harms many students in our district.

Posted by Another Parents
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 27, 2020 at 1:06 pm

To Parent:

"Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Hansen stated that over 1,000 students have not engaged in distance learning and are at risk of dropping below passing."

She never said, "They are failing" nor she stated that they were going to pass with their third-quarter grades.

So your conclusion that the P/NP decision is causing students to fail is wildly inaccurate.

All the schools are working in reaching these students to make sure they do not fail or they can start credit recovery sooner than later.

Posted by No name
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 27, 2020 at 1:27 pm

My understanding is that "hold harmless" wouldn't be legal, because the teacher's union contract doesn't allow the school or district to tell the teachers how to assign grades. They can set the high level policy for grading (A-F or Pass/NoPass) but they can't direct what grade to give. For Hold Harmless, the teachers would have to be told to not give a grade lower than the grade as of (some date).

If this is all true, and if the union refused to consider this, then that makes me even more grumpy about unions. (Which is why I'm being wimpy and being anonymous on this, sorry).

On the other hand, as a parent of a high-achieving student who agrees with all of you, I do think the world - scholarships, college admissions, etc. - going to figure out how to handle this without disadvantaging our darlings too badly.

And I know the administrators are scrambling to figure out hundreds of other complicated cases that come out of this situation, including feeding hungry kids, providing special education, what to do with the high percentage of kids who have not even logged in to Canvas one time in the last month, etc.

Posted by Jeff H
a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2020 at 2:48 pm

It's clear that the only solution to prevent 100% of the complaints is to give everyone an A for this semester!!

Oh, strike that. The parents whose children who had As going into the SIP would then complain that this would lessen the impact of the As that their children "rightly deserved."

Maybe we should just PASS *everyone* this semester and prepare everyone for the inevitable next round of SIPs in the meantime. Pass everyone and let the college admissions offices sort it out later. This would not cause anyone any harm.

Posted by Community Member
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 27, 2020 at 2:50 pm

I believe the P/NP was the best decision. No decision was perfect.

Hold Harmless would have been worse. That just inflates GPA's and makes it less likely that colleges will take those grades seriously. It has the same effect on motivation as P/NP. If I know my grade can't go down, why try?

I think it is important to remember all grades that are issued are modified grades. They are not the equivalent of a grade earned the year before in the same course. The same curriculum was not delivered. Yes, that is due to circumstance but true nonetheless. I think the P/NP delivers that message the best.

Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 27, 2020 at 2:56 pm

I think what is most disappointing/frustrating for me as a parent is the way that some members of the board and superintendent’s office seem to have approached this. If hold harmless was never a viable option (because of the teachers’ contracts or for whatever reason), say so. Don’t put it out there as a straw horse to confuse and distract people and divide people who support grades into smaller subgroups. And if students say that they care about their grades, please don’t dismiss them as shallow robots who don’t care about learning. You can value your education and still want validation and recognition for your achievements. When we acknowledge the winner of a sporting event, it doesn’t mean that the winning team didn’t also care about teamwork or athleticism or dedication and practice. Wanting recognition doesn’t mean that these students are only motivated by grades, and it saddens me to think that at least some school board members view our children this way.

Posted by Very Disappointed
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 27, 2020 at 4:02 pm

Great comment from Disappointed. The decision completes disrespects the work of hundreds (thousands?) of students who worked hard for 13 weeks before the decision was handed down. If you are competitive on a sports field, that is a good quality, but being competitive in the classroom is being treated as a negative thing. And yes, I know athletes have had to sacrifice their sports, but does that mean that motivated students should have to sacrifice something else in their lives?

As for the process of making the decision, it was disingenuous at best. The SUHSD staff manipulated a decision to their liking. They probably had at least 2 Board Members on their side before deliberation ever began, and a third was swayed by their “expertise”. Staff insisted that there had to be one grading policy selection for the whole District, defined 2 options from which to choose, and then explained why the option they didn’t like wouldn’t work. They solicited feedback from the community in a way that could not provide a clear preference and was entirely subject to biased interpretation, and then manipulated public comment. No “data” was ever documented, at least not for public viewing at the meeting. Asst. Supt. Hansen spoke falsehoods to the Board on the subject of providing a choice to students that only Trustee Weiner even attempted to challenge. In general the Board’s inquiry on the issues was sorely lacking.

It’s a pity that the District does not recognize that it serves students with widely varied expectations. On one end, over 40% of District students do not go on to 4 year colleges after graduation. On the other end is a large number of students seeking entrance into the nation’s most selective universities. Serving both ends of that spectrum requires true service, leadership, and possibly a little innovation. The SUHSD failed on this one.

Posted by SDTA
a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2020 at 4:31 pm

To respond to “A parent” - nobody claimed the SDTA survey showed there was a majority decision in favor of any one grading option. The 47.1% selection of “most favored” option was the highest plurality, making it clearly the most popular option, while admittedly not a majority.

When we subtracted the responses for “least favored grading system” from those for “most favored grading system”, pass/no pass was the only option to have a positive result.

All the conversation showed this was a difficult decision and one not taken lightly by anyone. Now that the decision has been made, it is time for us to work to support our students and avoid name calling and back biting.

Posted by A Parent
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 27, 2020 at 4:40 pm

Don't kid yourselves. Admissions decisions are made by computers. Any kid with more As will have more brownie points than a kid with a bunch of pass/fails. It's just math. Also, ALL kids are going to have personal statements thanks to the coronavirus. Again, the admissions counselors won't go through them all. Math will be used to bubble the highest achievers to the top -- and our kids will be at the bottom of the barrel whether they deserve it or not. Even LAUSD isn't moving to pass/fail and they have 600,000 kids.

Posted by Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2020 at 4:52 pm

So, let me get this straight….the Pass/Failer’s are ok with many, many students failing?

The Pass/Failer’s are ok punishing students because they are working full time to support their families, caring full for younger siblings, live in home where they can’t study, or have severe mental health or learning disability challenges. The Pass/Failer’s still think these students should be able to study, take tests, complete assignments, etc. The Pass/Failer’s think these students should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and pass their classes.

Many students have been unable to engage in distance learning and have lost support systems, but you still expect them to pass? Or wait, they can just start credit recovery with limited education support systems and very challenging circumstances? Or wait, they can just take summer school or repeat the grade right? Makes sense…again, just pull yourselves up by the bootstraps…

It doesn’t matter to the Pass/Failer’s that these student WERE passing their classes prior to March 13….I guess that is an easy fact to ignore when you can just pull yourselves up by the bootstraps.

Do the Pass/Failer’s know what life is like for some of these students living in poverty in our community? I know we live the land of the ultimate 1% bubble….but, how can we expect these students to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when the bootstraps have been obliterated?

Posted by bemused
a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2020 at 5:07 pm

@Tricia, do you know how the MA-PTA survey was distributed? I don't think I received an email for it, though maybe a link was in Bearnotes and I missed it? I kept hearing about people voting and was wondering what they were referring to. The fact that there were only 250 responses out of a student body of 2600 students (and I suppose even a few number of students represented if multiple parents/students from one household responded) to me indicates that many people did not see the MA-PTA survey, and that it shouldn't be held up as indicating a majority preference across the MA community.

Posted by bemused
a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2020 at 5:21 pm

I would like more information about the "Equity for All" committee. How long has it existed? What other issues has it worked on? Is it a subcommittee of the SUHSD, because if not, the email address is highly misleading. Which socioeconomic and diversity groups are represented by the members listed in the article? I cannot find a single thing online about this group anywhere. Unfortunately, the fact that there is no online presence gives the impression that this group was formed purely to pressure SUHSD to change its grading policy for this semester.

Posted by SRLE
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 27, 2020 at 8:23 pm

I think it is too late now - students have checked out, relying on Pass / Fail....

Posted by Teacher at SUHSD
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 28, 2020 at 9:46 am

Let's take an honest look at all the points made above and the comments. First of all, seems like most people here talking about equity don't truly know what equity actually stands for here.

1. Everyone talks about looking out for the best interest of the socioeconomic disadvantaged students and community, yet, no one is asking them what's best for them. The survey sent out to students was sent via email and done solely online in a time when many families in this community do not have access or have other stressors that prevent them from participating. The majority of the people who took the survey, including students and parents, were not from these communities and come from a position of power. So instead, we have a "white savior" moment here where we have privileged people telling a less-privileged community what is best for them and discrediting what they say is best for themselves. Look at who makes up that "Equity for All" group. Who do they represent?

2. The claim that Pass/Fail is causing harm is misleading. Teachers are taking this to mean that we should be thoughtful and empathetic to the situations of students suffering from the effects of Coronavirus and economic insecurity. So we are doing pass/fail with the idea of "hold harmless" as well. If a student was passing and now has to work 40 hours a week to help their family, or take care of siblings, or have extra responsibilities that prevent them from doing school work, we will not drop their grade. They will still pass.

3. What we see here is a group of parents trying to get their students ahead. They are trying to benefit from the plight of the less fortunate. They see an opportunity to increase their headstart to get their kids ahead. I understand that as parents, we all want the best from our kids. But do we want that to be at the hands of taking advantage of others? The Pass/Fail option (with an inherent "hold harmless" build in as teachers are actually doing) is not fair for anyone. But it is not pushing anyone down.

As the proverb goes, "When someone is used to privilege, equality feels like oppression". That's what this group is feeling. At a time like now, we must all make sacrifices to help the community overall. Those people that you are trying to get ahead and take advantage of, they're sacrificing their lives working as essential workers in hospitals, grocery stores, factories, etc. to make sure you're still alive. They're sacrificing for the betterment of the community as a whole. The least you can do is the same.

Posted by Very Disappointed
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 28, 2020 at 11:40 am

“White savior?“ I don’t know what you teach but I sure wouldn’t want that attitude promulgated to our students. You accuse the “equity for all“ group of speaking for a community they don’t represent, but it’s apparently OK if you do? And it’s OK to attach nefarious motives to the request of this group, who again you apparently don’t know? Unfortunately, it’s not nearly so simple. At the Board meeting, comments were made that spanned socioeconomic backgrounds - “A” students advocating for Pass/Fail, and less advantaged students and parents advocating for real grades, including one mother who knew that GPA improvement was needed for athletic eligibility for her sons.

If teachers are going to combine P/F with Hold Harmless, that’s fine. However, the district has not communicated that so you can’t blame the parents for thinking that numerous students are subject to failing. The only thing that the District communicated was that they thought P/F was the most “equitable“ solution and that teachers were uncomfortable assessing students in the Distance Learning environment. The reality is that very few students are going to fail anything this semester. The SUHSD simply does not have the resources for them to recover. So a student who is not making passing marks, for reasons related to Covid or not, is going to be moved along with a passing grade.

It is insulting to accuse parents of wanting to benefit from the plight of others just because they want what’s best for their children. It is not wrong for students to want good grades, to be recognized for their work and achievement. But it is wrong to say that P/F will not push any student down. Any student who could have improved their cumulative GPA by the results of this semester - whether it be improving from a 4.2 to a 4.3 or from a 1.8 to a 2.0 - will be negatively affected. And I am tired of the District not recognizing that simple mathematical fact.

Everyone has had to make sacrifices as a result of this pandemic. Students have all given up social interaction, extracurriculars, sports. But this was NOT a necessary sacrifice. The SUHSD could have worked towards a solution that would have recognized the varied needs of their students, a solution of choice. They chose not to.

Posted by Tricia
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 28, 2020 at 12:31 pm

In addition to the State of Washington, districts and States are changing course as they realize the unintended consequences of the the pass / no pass model, which penalizes students.

See the article in NYTimes re: Mayor DeBlasio grading announcement for New York City School District - the largest public school district in the country with 1,100,000 students.

"Students across the system will not receive failing grades"

"High school: Students will still get letter grades, but they will have until early next school year to complete courses that they do not finish to their teachers’ satisfaction. They will also be given the option of switching grades for this semester to a pass/fail mark."

"the city also wants to keep high school students on track for graduation and avoid penalizing students, particularly those who have lacked the internet access they need for remote learning."

Web Link

As has been stated before, the second largest district in the country, Los Angeles Unified School District, is implementing a hold harmless grading model.

Sequoia Union High School District, please put students first!

Posted by A. Parent
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 28, 2020 at 4:26 pm

SUHSD - It's not too late to amend your P/NP decision!

Please do what's in the best interest of students across the socio-economic spectrum, with an eye on equity and doing no harm.

This should not be about pitting one group against another. This should be about continued efforts to help all our students thrive. This should be about implementing a solution that focuses on the endpoints of well-being, continued learning, and growing opportunity for all students. Your P/NP decision does not achieve this.

In addition to the whole state of WA and NYC, the Denver School District with approximately 100,000 students of which 65% are eligible for free and reduced price lunch, has also revised their prior C/NC policy, to allow for flexibility and continued engagement of their students in learning.

Web Link

"The Denver school district is changing its approach to high school grading during remote learning, after hearing feedback from students, families, and educators. Students will now have a choice: For each class, they can decide whether they want to receive a letter grade or would prefer their transcript to show that they earned or did not earn credit for the course. No student will receive an F this semester."

Web Link

Posted by A. Parent
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 28, 2020 at 4:47 pm

To "Teacher at SUHSD" who commented earlier,

Firstly, I truly appreciate the incredible amount of hard work and talent it takes to be a caring, effective teacher, for all students.

I hope that's who you are. I hope you're serving our entire community of students at this time, and always.

Your remarks about sacrificing some students for others are extremely troubling.

To address your points:

1a)Couldn't agree more that the "survey" process was completely flawed. It wasn't just the survey that was flawed, the entire information gathering and deliberation process was flawed. The process should be corrected and the decision reconsidered.

1b)We absolutely need to be able to hear back from socioeconomically disadvantaged students and families. How do we even know who responded? No demographics were provided beyond broad statistics of parents, students, and community members. Was a Spanish survey conducted? Where are the results? Where were the multiple choice questions?

1c) White saviors/discrediting what people say is best for them. Untrue and offensive. You're making invalid assumptions, discrediting many community members who have spent decades in efforts to improve the lives, education and opportunities for disadvantaged children.

2) Teachers are going to not fail kids who were passing before the transition. If that's true, that's the right move! But, that approach should have been explicitly included in the policy the board voted on. Why wasn't that included?

3)Your assessment that the parents who believe the current policy needs to be revised have evil motivations, is truly awful! I can't imagine you know many of these parents. I don't know all of them, but I know a few, and what you've described is the polar opposite of who they are.

Posted by bemused
a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2020 at 5:27 pm

I still don't understand how people think grading can be meaningful. It's already been said, multiple times, that course content cannot be covered completely or to depth intended; and that distance assessment will not be accurate.

Having all students assigned a grade for the whole semester based on the grade they had at an arbitrary date before even half-way through the semester is obviously unfair. How can people be promoting this as an equitable solution?

And why is anyone saying we should follow what LA and NY are doing? So if they make a flawed decision, we should just follow along? What happened to doing what's right even if others aren't?

P/NP is the only scheme that accurately reflects the current situation. The ill-named "hold-harmless" is an unfounded grading scheme, seemingly pulled out of a hat.

I'm still hoping to hear more about the "Equity for All" committee. I would like to hear how they came to their conclusions about what is equitable in this situation.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2020 at 6:27 pm

Wow! I am a teacher and am a bit offended by the statements made by the teacher above. I want my daughter to get grades because she has worked her tail off during this pandemic, not because I want to take advantage of the system or because she is “privileged.” My daughter has accommodations for a learning disability, yet she perseveres without accommodations. She has more work now then she ever did when school was open. You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors or what families are dealing with during theses times. Hold harmless would have been most equitable for all.

Posted by Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2020 at 8:04 pm

The United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing tens of thousands of district teachers states:

“In recognition of the gap in home learning resources, students will be “held harmless” and will not receive a lesser grade than their grade as of March 13. Teachers have the discretion to give students a higher grade.”

“Our focus is on supporting our students and delivering instruction as equitably as possible given the extreme circumstances we are in and the needs of our own families and loved ones.”

This is our state’s largest district serving 600,000 students.

Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 28, 2020 at 8:34 pm

I just want to clarify: my main issue is with the process and with the implication expressed by some board members (and some commenters here) that there is something improper or anti-learning about a student wanting recognition for past work. I agree with those who have commented that it will make little difference for college applications that this semester is pass/fail. Many schools that my kids would be thrilled to go to, including Stanford, Claremont, etc., are adopting pass/fail for the spring. And they are doing so despite the expression of fears similar to those being raised here — that their students will be at a disadvantage applying to medical school, law school, for jobs, and so on. I think that everyone recognizes that this is a frightening, chaotic time and that there are no good choices here. I do not think that colleges and universities are going to penalize our children for the same decision that they have made for their students.

Posted by Meh
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Apr 29, 2020 at 12:12 am

Wow - y’all are nuts. Chill out. Life’s gonna go on. School’s gonna be disrupted. Getting into college is gonna be weird. But GPA for this semester will be a write-off across-the-board. If li’l Tiffani can’t get into Harvard based on 6 data points of semester GPA, that 7th data point ain’t gonna tip the scales. Best to brush up on viola and a service trip to Madagascar. Maybe you can badger her to take up Mandarin over the summer.

Sometimes stuff happens - make the best of it, give your kids space to grow and let the educational professionals do their thang.

Posted by David B
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 29, 2020 at 12:51 pm

@meh.... snarky that it was, you win Comment of the Day!

Posted by Anon A Mouse
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 30, 2020 at 1:56 am

Just a reminder - it’s not Pass / Fail, it is Pass / No Pass. The fact that we can’t even use the word “Fail” tells you everything you need to know about the leadership of SUHSD.

Posted by An Advocate for our Students
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 30, 2020 at 5:12 pm

Last night's board meeting was again disheartening- there was a lack of student focus or mention. Why are we not talking about the students- only the teachers!
(I say that with the greatest respect to our teachers who we admire and recognize and in NO question how difficult this is for all you as well)

Of course teachers are important and valued that is not in question. It was mentioned how teachers are taking care of elders, young children and stressed.....funny so are students! and students are also taking on jobs to help their family. Not to mention how isolating distant learning is and how many more are suffering from depression and/or just feeling paralyzed.

We adults are all conforming and adapting in our own lives/jobs. As a society and community it is our job to be an example and mentor for all our students. Why is there a elephant in the room?

Carrie and Allen W were admirable, a true voice for the students.

No student should fail yet 15% of the student body hasn't even checked into Canvas- and there are so many reasons as a few explained above why. There are better options or variations out's ok as adults to say we made a choice but we could re evaluate and see what effect that choice has and make adjustments as needed. That would be the best way to teach our children how to survive and succeed mentally, emotionally and academically during this pandemic and any other disaster situation they hopefully will not have to encounter again in the future if we provide them all with the right tools now.

Posted by Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 1, 2020 at 6:08 pm

To start, I'll share that I was hoping the hold harmless (HH) would have been chosen.

What puzzles me the most about the Pass/No Pass argument isn't the very good points about economic and opportunity differences in our district. Those are very real and they existed before the shelter in place. What puzzles me is that virtually no argument for Pass/No Pass has stated why this option is better than HH to address these inequities. Every advantage touted by Pass/No Pass is also covered by HH, as far as I can tell.

Posted by Let students choose
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2020 at 3:52 pm


Palo Alto, SF, San Jose, Sequoia, Acalanes Union, others and recently South San Francisco high school students now fall into the 10-15% minority of kids in CA not allowed the chance to keep the letter grades they earned in third quarter to use as baseline for a semester letter grade and are now officially disadvantaged and not being held harmless.

The national and especially the state landscape has continued to change dramatically in favor of letter grades grading policies. As of this week, the California Public High School Districts that have issued letter grade option policies to their students continues to grow and now represents 83% of all California Public High School enrollment (93% of ALL high school students, factoring in private schools). These numbers are dramatically in line with offering students a letter grade or letter grade option for this semester. What percentage of students would be significant enough for their Boards to consider the possibility that the students are being disadvantaged and not “held harmless”? This number continues to grow every day as Districts carefully weigh what is at risk and issue or revisit their grading policies.

Should the notion of a choice be the principle concern, all districts should consider a letter grade or letter grade-hybrid policy. Most of these policies do not require a fourth quarter grade. See below for many of the well-reasoned letter grade policies that are being offered by California High School Districts including providing students with a 'hold harmless' letter grade where there is no fourth quarter grade issued, only a final semester grade that would be no lower than third quarter. A number of these letter grade policies directly and effectively address the concerns articulated in your last board meeting and most importantly are a true reflection of the “hold harmless” principle emphasized in the CDE guidance.

The simple inarguable fact is that students who perform the same or better in the third quarter this semester as they have in the past who do not receive a letter grade for the semester will have a lower cumulative GPA than all similarly situated students who do receive a letter grade this semester. No college admission program has disputed this or committed to addressing this disparity, nor could they realistically do so. Put more simply any student who worked hard this semester to earn an improved GPA will necessarily have a lower cumulative GPA than over 80% of similarly-situated California public high schools students (those from the 80% plus school districts who do offer grades). When private and Catholic high school students are taken into consideration this number exceeds 90% of all California high school students.

Please see pertinent school policy data below as of 5/5 and here:Web Link

In many cases in below examples, fourth quarter is NOT being graded, and participation is only used toward possible increases to third quarter performance and to encourage engagement and learning.

The below 250+ districts offering grades or a hybrid flexible grading model represents nearly 85% of California public high school enrollment, based on most recent Ed-Data cumulative enrollment* (95% factoring in private school students).

*excludes Office of Ed students

100% of Marin, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Mendocino, San Joaquin, Merced, Lake, Kings, Calaveras, Imperial, Trinity, Inyo, Mono, Lassen, Del Norte, Tulare, Yuba, and Sutter counties are offering letter grades or a hybrid model.

A) Hundreds of California state districts have announced they will issue final semester letter grades.

Most of these are establishing “hold harmless” grade protection policies, wherein final semester grades will be no lower than third quarter, including FIFTEEN of the TWENTY largest districts in the state:

1. Elk Grove

2. Santa Ana

3. Capistrano (hybrid - letter grades (A-C), Credit, No Credit, or Inc)

4. Los Angeles Unified

5. San Diego Unified (hybrid- letter grade default, No Grade option for D-F)

6. Corona-Norco

7. San Bernardino

8. Fresno Unified

9. San Juan

10. Sacramento City Unified

11. Clovis

12. Sweetwater Union

13. Garden Grove

14. Riverside

15. Stockton

B) Dozens of districts are offering a flexible grading model to receive a semester grade or choice/alternative.

In these hybrid models, any letter grade option would be harmless and no lower than third quarter. In most cases, fourth quarter is NOT graded.

1. Tamalpais Unified (Universal Pass grading system: all in good standing will earn an A during distance learning, then averaged with third quarter grades)

2. San Rafael City Schools (letter grades (A-C) or Credit/No Credit)

3. Los Gatos-Saratoga Union (letter grades (A-C) or Credit/No Credit)

4. Temple City (letter grades (A-C) or Credit/No Credit)

5. West Contra Costa (letter grade (A-C), Pass or NC)

6. Lodi (letter grade default with C/NC option)

7. Santa Cruz Union (letter grades, Credit or Incomplete)

8. Jefferson Union (letter grade (A-C) or P (for a D or F))

9. Monterey Peninsula (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

10. Salinas (letter grade or NC)

11. Pajaro Valley (letter grade default, C/NC option)

12. Paso Robles (letter grade (A-C), P or NC) (recently readjusted)

13. Coronado (letter grade (A-C), Pass or NC)

14. El Dorado Hills (letter grade or Pass/No Mark or Pass/Fail)

15. Roseville Joint (letter grade or Pass/No Mark or Pass/Fail)

16. Whittier Union (letter grade or Pass/No Mark or Pass/Fail)

17. Cloverdale (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

18. Chico (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

19. Placer (letter grade, C, NC, or Incomplete)

20. Placer Union High School District (letter grades no lower than third quarter, Passing Credit, Inc, or NC, with a one-year opportunity to raise a NC;

21. Palos Verdes (letter grade or Pass/No Mark or Pass/Fail)

22. San Marcos (letter grade or Pass/No Mark or Pass/Fail)

23. Atascadero (letter grade (A-C), Pass or NC)

24. San Lorenzo Valley (letter grade or Pass/No Mark or Pass/Fail)

25. Carpinteria (letter grade A, Credit (B-D), or No Credit (F)

26. South Pasadena (letter grade default, C/NC option)

27. Templeton (letter grade default, C/NC option)

28. Monrovia (letter grade default, C/NC option)

29. Covina Valley (letter grade default, C/NC option)

30. Lake Elsinore (letter grade default, C/NC option)

31. Center Joint (letter grade default, P/NP option)

32. Oxnard (P/NP default, letter grade opt-in after school ends, for any class)

33. Santa Barbara (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

34. Lucia Mar (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

35. Lammersville (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

36. Bishop Unified (and all Inyo county) (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

37. Calaveras (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

38. Colusa (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

39. West Covina (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

40. Azusa (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

41. East Nicholaus (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

42. Duarte (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

43. Norwalk-La Mirada (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

44. Charter Oak (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

45. Mariposa (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in)

46. Grossmont (letter grade (A-C), Pass or No Mark)

47. Firebaugh-Las Deltas (C/NC default, letter grade option; D is Credit)

48. San Gabriel (C/NC default, letter grade opt-in, only considering q4 work post 5/4)

49. Ceres (C/NC default, letter grade (A-B) option)

50. Manhattan Beach (letter grade default, Pass option)

51. Newport Mesa (letter grades (A-C) or Inc)

52. Torrance (letter grade (A-D), Pass, or Inc)

53. Fullerton Joint Unified (letter grades (A-C); D becomes a C) or NC)

54. San Pasqual Valley (letter grade, C, NC, or Inc)

55. Summerville (letter grade or P)

56. Sanger (letter grade (A-C), P or NP)

57. Upland (letter grade or C/NC)

58. Ojai (letter grade (A-C), Pass, or Inc)

59. Escalon (Pass or letter grade opt-in)

60. Antelope Valley Union (letter grade (A-C), P or NC (D = Pass))

61. Redondo Beach (letter grade A-C or Inc for fourth quarter to be averaged with third quarter; no semester grade may be lower than third quarter)

62. Alhambra (letter grade (A-C) or Credit)

63. Ventura Unified (proposal under review: letter grade (A-C), P or Inc)

64. Laguna Beach (letter grade (A-C), P or Inc)

65. Saddleback (letter grade (A-C), P or Inc)

66. Wasco Union (letter grade or P/F)

67. Tustin (letter grade, Credit or Incomplete)

68. El Segundo (letter grade (A-B), Credit (for C or D grades), or NC)

69. Baldwin Park (proposed: C/NC or letter grade no lower than prior to closures)

70. Calexico (letter grades, with possible flexible hybrid structure TBD)

71. Santa Paula (letter grades, with possible flexible hybrid structure TBD)

72. Orange Center (letter grade (A-C), F, or Pass (D))

73. Ramona (letter grades A-C no lower than 3q, P/F, or Inc)

74. Willits (letter grades (A-B) or NC)

75. Delhi (letter grades (A-B) or Credit)

C) Dozens of other districts are offering hold harmless semester letter grades no lower than third quarter. In most cases, fourth quarter is NOT graded. And many have eliminated an F grade entirely.

Some include:

1. Pleasanton

2. Liberty Union

3. Benicia

4. Alameda

5. West Sonoma County High District

6. Healdsburg

7. Vallejo

8. Scotts Valley

9. Vacaville

10. Santa Rosa City Schools

11. Cotati-Rohnert Park

12. St. Helena

13. Calistoga

14. Shoreline

15. Petaluma

16. San Marino

17. Paso Robles

18. Pasadena

19. Simi Valley

20. Modesto Union HSD

21. Merced Union

22. Woodland

23. Sonora

24. Western Placer

25. Konocti

26. Lassen

27. Rocklin

28. Paradise Valley

29. Tracy

30. Oroville

31. Tahoe-Truckee

32. Eureka City Schools

33. Plumas County

34. Western Placer

35. Escondido

36. East Side Union

37. Glendale

38. La Cañada

39. Coalinga-Huron

40. Anaheim

41. Los Alamitos

42. Visalia

43. El Monte

44. Wheatland Union

45. Siskiyou

46. Fort Bragg

47. Roseland

48. Imperial

49. Los Banos

50. Fontana

51. Alvord

52. Hesperia

53. Paramount

54. Emery

55. Patterson

56. Culver City

57. Valley Center

58. Brett Harte Union HSD

59. Kelseyville

60. Natomas

61. Victor Valley

62. Twin Rivers

63. Santa Maria

64. ABC United

65. San Jacinto

66. Windsor

67. Tulare

68. Morongo

69. Bassett

70. Perris Union

71. Conejo Valley

72. Anderson Union

73. Silver Valley

74. Bear Valley

75. Bansall

76. Lynwood

77. Golden Plains

78. Arcadia

79. Temecula Valley

80. Marysville

81. Rialto

82. Chaffey Joint

83. Palm Springs

84. Murrieta Valley

85. Oakdale

86. Turlock

87. Moorpark

88. Hanford Joint

89. Central Unified

90. Val Verde

91. Banning

92. Hemet

93. Beaumont

94. Fortuna

95. Walnut Valley

96. Coachella

97. Parlier

98. Brawley

99. Fallbrook

100. Bonita

101. El Monte

102. El Rancho

103. Waterford

104. Kingsburg Union

105. Washington Union

106. Rowland

107. Winters

108. Esparto

109. Mountain Empire

110. Corcoran Unified (higher of the two grades from third and fourth quarter)

111. Pierce Joint

112. Glendora

113. Silver Valley

114. Rim of the World

115. Lone Pine

116. Death Valley

117. Owens Valley

118. Big Pine

119. Yucaipa-Calimesa

120. Mendota

121. Redlands

122. Fowler

123. Linden

124. Centinela Union (letter grades A-C (no lower than third quarter), so every child passes)

125. Hilmar


D) Most all private schools are offering letter grades and are coming up with some creative approaches. For instance, private University High School in San Francisco has developed a creative option of a “Double-A” grading policy for work submitted in the 4th quarter. This means, for all students in good standing, the sum of the work in this shelter-in-place environment will be assessed at or above an A- grade (3.5/90%) and averaged, as appropriate by course, with the existing 3rd quarter record of work.

E) Many districts are continuing traditional letter grading for semester grades.

1. Huntington Beach

2. Cabrillo

3. Beverly Hills

4. Brea-Olinda

5. William S. Hart

6. Chino Valley

7. Oak Park

8. Claremont

9. Manteca

10. Las Virgenes

11. Washington Unified

12. Colton Joint

13. Santa Ynez

14. Trinity Alps

15. Acton-Agua

16. San Luis Obispo Coastal

17. Newman-Crows

18. Ripon

19. Hughson

20. Denair

21. Ukiah

22. Trinity Alps

23. Anderson Valley

24. Lemoore

25. Reef-Sunset

26. Eureka City Schools

27. Madera

28. Yreka

29. Klamath Trinity

30. Gateway

31. Cuyama

32. Sutter Union

33. Borrego Springs

34. Southern Trinity

35. Big Oak-Groveland

36. Baker Valley

37. Barstow

38. Southern Kern

39. Delano

40. Lucerne Valley

41. Lincoln Unified

42. Mammouth

43. Aromas-San Juan

44. Golden Valley

45. Dos Palos Oro Loma

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