In recognition that learning has been hindered by COVID-19 restrictions, Durango School District 9-R has adopted a temporary grading policy for middle and high school students that won’t affect their grade-point average.
Gov. Jared Polis’ elimination of in-class learning and other bans against large gatherings have transformed education as the fight against the novel coronavirus has forced public schools across the state to turn to distance learning with lessons conducted online, through videos and with at-home work.
9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger said, “The continuity of instruction is a little different. Students in the classroom are getting regular, immediate feedback. And that just isn’t always possible now. So, for students who are hypersensitive to GPA, we want to ensure the change in model doesn’t have any lasting or long-term impact on the students.”
The temporary modification to the grading system will be in effect for the fourth grading period of the second semester of the year.
The scale will be changed so students who would have received a letter grade of C or better will be given a P, for pass. Students who would have received a D will receive a P-, and students who would have flunked a class will receive a no credit, or an NC. The temporary grading scale will not affect a student’s grade-point average.
Snowberger said while online learning can be effective, inevitably it entails a certain loss of a teacher’s ability to offer immediate feedback and offer quick and meaningful exchanges with students.
He also noted 9-R, like other school districts in Southwest Colorado, has a percentage of students who don’t have broadband access, making immediate communications with teachers even more difficult.
“The feeling is that it allows the student to continue to do the work they need to do without having that lasting impact on the GPA that could make a difference in a college admittance or a scholarship,” he said.
Students who are working hard and had pointed toward the current grading period as a time frame when they wanted to improve their GPA have an ability to request a letter grade from their teacher, and it will count toward their GPA, Snowberger said.
“We’re really trying to meet every student where they are and make sure that the change in model doesn’t have a negative impact on a student, he said.
Students and parents who want a traditional letter grade will have to make that request to each teacher in the class for which they want a traditional A to F grade.
Bayfield School Superintendent Kevin Aten said the district is smaller than Durango, and it feels comfortable maintaining the traditional grading scale for the COVID-19 grading period.
“We’re smaller and that makes it easier to stay personally engaged with the kids,” he said.
In talking with superintendents across the state, Aten said in larger school districts, some high schools are seeing as many as 70% of their students are not engaging in daily online and at-home learning, but that is not the case in Bayfield.
“Our kids are doing the work and talking to teachers. I think we have families, students and teachers who are finding a way to get the work done,” Aten said.
Ignacio School Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto, said like Bayfield, Ignacio is keeping the traditional grading scale in place.
“We will make some adjustments. We want to reflect students who do the work, and for project-based classes, you have to make some adjustments, and so we’ve told teachers to have some flexibility,” he said.
Snowberger said a number of other school districts across the country are adopting similar temporary grading systems for the grading period affected by restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
He said Fort Lewis College went to a pass-fail system on its courses this semester for the same reason.
“It’s hard to do the very same thing educationally when you don’t have the means to provide that rapid, immediate, in-person feedback to students,” he said.
The P, P-, NC grading scale will be clearly marked on transcripts so colleges can easily determine the specific semester when a student’s school career was adversely affected by COVID-19.
“Transcripts will be noted that this semester was a COVID-19 home-based instruction model. So that a college, four years from now, can look and see this was the semester impacted,” Snowberger said.
The idea behind the temporary grading scale was to recognize educational obstacles inherent in moving to distance learning while also rewarding students who targeted this semester to improve GPAs.
“It’s really just acknowledging the fact that we couldn’t meet in the classroom,” Snowberger said. “Teachers are providing the same level of attention and interest, but without meeting students every day in person, education is so personalized, there’s no way it can be exactly the same. And the temporary grading system just recognizes that.”