How equity has overhauled grading in online learning

Some large districts may give all students A's, while others just get rid of F's
By: | April 21, 2020
Many school districts have adjusted grading to ensure equity for students who have don't access to online learning or facing other challenges while coronavirus keeps buildings closed. (Tetra Images/GettyImages.com)Many school districts have adjusted grading to ensure equity for students who have don't access to online learning or facing other challenges while coronavirus keeps buildings closed. (Tetra Images/GettyImages.com)

Grading in online classes has been overhauled in many school districts as equity-minded superintendents aim to make sure students having trouble with the transition don’t suffer drastic academic consequences.

High school students in Seattle Public Schools, including those receiving specialized services, will either receive an “A” or an “incomplete” while COVID-19 keeps schools closed, the district announced this week.

Students will get an “A” if they participate in online or distance learning and make progress toward grade-level standards.

Students may get “incompletes” if, despite having access, they don’t participate. But they will be able to make up work during the summer and fall semesters.


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“Several grading options were analyzed using the district’s racial equity tool including a review of student case studies,” the district’s public affairs department said. “While there is no perfect solution, the A/I grading option recognizes the challenges faced by all students and intentionally minimizes harm for students furthest away from educational justice.

Middle school students, who will receive a “P” for passing, will be encouraged to complete assignments as best they can. The district is still developing a plan for elementary school grading.

The district is also working with the State Board of Education and its own school board to make high school graduation requirements more flexible.

Grading plans consider parents, too

Los Angeles USD has removed “F” grades. Students can still get “Ds,” which count as passing grades, The San Jose Mercury News reported.

San Francisco USD is strongly considering giving middle and high school students an “A” on their report cards. Leaders won’t make a final decision until the impact on college admissions is determined, according to The Mercury News. 

Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Oregon is implementing a pass/incomplete system to support students—and their parents—as families adjust to online classes, KOIN-TV reported.

Teachers have made 130,000 phone calls to students and families to help them log into distance learning, district spokesperson Lillian Govus told KOIN-TV.


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“That’s to make sure that our parents who aren’t able to spend as much time helping their students with the distance learning, who have various obstacles at home, so that there’s not the additional stress that their student’s GPA or ability to transition from third to fourth grade is going to be harmed through this process,” Govus told KOIN-TV.

In Nevada, Carson City School District has moved to pass/fail grading for all secondary students, KTVN-TV reported.

Students can appeal to their school principals to receive letter grades. “In our discussions to address the needs of our families and students at the close of this extraordinary school year, we have used as a guiding principle the idea to ‘do no harm’ to students,” Superintendent Richard Stokes told KTVN-TV.


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.


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