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'Do no harm' with student grading

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OSPI has issued a new 15-page guidance (PDF file) that attempts to sort through core questions during the pandemic about learning and evaluation, and ways to think beyond America’s benchmark measures of seat time and test scores.

"In this global crisis, teachers are overwhelmed, parents and guardians are overwhelmed, and many of our students are overwhelmed," state Schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal says in the new guidance. "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 in their next pursuit."

OSPI says the following framework will be used:

"Students in grades K–8 will be challenged to demonstrate effort and success in learning standards established by their teachers. Students will move on to the next grade, unless by mutual agreement between parents/guardians and teachers they agree to repeat a grade or a portion of learning missed. Districts will retain complete decision-making on middle school grading practices for students not taking high school credit-bearing courses."

"Grades 9–12 and middle school students taking credit-bearing high school level work will be graded using the following principles: Do no harm! Every student will get an opportunity to improve their grade with their March 17 status as a baseline. No student will receive a "pass," "fail" or "no credit" grade for any course. Teachers will assign grades or assign an "incomplete" for students that cannot engage in an equitable way. Every class taken during the closure period will be given a statewide designator on the high school transcript to demote the unique environment in which the course was taken. Students assigned an "incomplete" for a course will be given opportunities to re-engage in the learning standards based on local school district decisions in consultation with the student/parents/guardians, including but not limited to:

Summer school; Courses in the following term or year; Independent study; Competency-based courses; Online courses, or; Backfilling the incomplete grade with the letter grade obtained in the next course taken in that subject area."

In instances of an "incomplete," OSPI notes, a plan for course completion should be developed and followed.

"All students will be given an opportunity to engage in continuous learning to maintain or improve their mastery of essential standards."

OSPI emphasizes that attendance expectations have changed during the closures.

"Attendance will not be a factor when determining student grades (RCW 28A.600.030). Districts will be expected to take attendance consistent with their continuous learning plan; however, attendance will not be a factor when determining student grades or as a condition of receiving apportionment."

"This statewide framework will create more consistency across the state, but districts will still decide which letter grade system to use," Reykdal states. "However, 'F's' will not be an option. This is a very complex problem, and I am incredibly grateful to the parents, students, and educators across the state who offered their ideas and input."

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