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Letter grades scrapped for final quarter; most students will have pass, withdraw option
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Letter grades scrapped for final quarter; most students will have pass, withdraw option

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The State Board of Education approved new guidelines on how the state’s public school students should be graded, taking into consideration the challenges and inequities inherent in remote learning.

A team with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is studying the recommendations, so there could be some modifications.

Some highlights from the state’s recommendations:

  • Students in grades K-5 will receive no final grade. Instead, teachers will provide year-end feedback for students using a format that local districts will determine. Teachers will document individual student strengths and needs from an academic and social/emotional perspective as these kids prepare for the 2020-21 school year.
  • Students in grades 6-8 will receive a “pass” or “withdraw” instead of a letter grade. A pass will be given to students who were meeting expectations and passing courses as of March 13 or who worked to improve to the point of passing after March 13 through remote learning.

A “withdraw” will be given to students who were not passing a course as of March 13 and who were unable to improve to the point of passing the course through remote learning. A “withdraw” does not mean the student will be retained or that the course must be repeated, the state said. Rather it, “simply indicates a lack of evidence of mastery of standards addressed in the particular content area.”

  • Students in grades 9-11 may choose the “pass” or “withdraw” option or opt for a numeric grade, which would be their grade prior to March 13 or as improved through remote learning. Students will not receive a failing grade but if they chose the “withdrawal” option they will not receive a unit of credit, as it indicates a lack of mastery over a subject.

For spring courses, high school seniors will be given passing or failing grades or they can choose to withdraw, the school system said earlier this month.

The state board advises local districts to only consider retaining a student if the retention process was well underway prior to March 13.

Brent Campbell, a spokesman for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, said the local district is looking closely at the state board’s recommendations.

“We will take their guidelines and work to implement them specific to our district. We will be coming out with more district specific guidance on exactly how that looks for our students in the coming days,” Campbell said.

The last day of in-person learning in the state was March 13. Two days later. Gov. Roy Cooper suspended in-person learning to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. That initial order was extended to May 15.

Cooper said on Thursday that he will make a decision on whether to end in-person learning on Friday.

A group that came up with the recommendations worked under the principles of “grace and generosity,” according to Sneha Shah-Coltrane, the director of Advanced Learning and Gifted Education with the N.C. Department of Instruction.

Shah-Coltrane presented the recommendations to the state board on Thursday morning.

The board also acted to suspend annual evaluations for teachers who did not have the required number of classroom observations completed for the year.

It also approved a joint request from the board and the Department of Public Instruction for a $380 million request to the General Assembly for emergency funding for a list of needs, including school nutrition, remote learning, support for exceptional children’s programs and funding for a Summer Bridge/Jump Start program for rising first through rising fourth graders needing extra support.

lodonnell@wsjournal.com

336-727-7420

@lisaodonnellWSJ

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