The Board of Education at its Dec. 8 meeting unanimously voted to suspend its grading policy and allow the Superintendent to set a minimum grade of 50 percent for an F for the first quarter of this school year. The suspension of Board policy 5132.2 applies only to student grades for the first quarter for the current 2020-21 school year.
Staff proposed the suspension to the Board to address concerns over increased numbers of students failing classes for the first quarter. According to Deputy Superintendent of Schools Amy Hollstein, failing F grades for secondary students for the first quarter has greatly increased from last school year. Hollstein attributed the rise in failing grades to issues related to virtual learning, such as technology availability and virtual classroom access, an increase in workload and assignments, and student support at home in the learning environment.
Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) has implemented several interventions to assist students in not only their ability to participate in virtual learning, but also to provide students with additional support. Some of these interventions include:
- Weekly professional development for teachers with a focus on critical content.
- Teachers starting meetings in advance to use extra time to support students.
- Adjustments made to Dropbox for easier assignment submission by students.
- Teachers using breakout rooms for direct instruction.
- Expansion of grade and credit recovery programs.
- Evening high school model offered to nearly 70 seniors having issues with virtual learning.
During the meeting, Hollstein also talked about reports from parents about the negative affects virtual learning is having on the mental health of students. “Students cannot focus on learning if they are frustrated and having trouble accessing their classes. Stressors outside of learning have increased for students and we are seeing the effects,” Hollstein said.
Temporarily changing the minimum failing grade of F to a 50 percent, according to Hollstein, would provide students with a real opportunity to increase their grade moving forward. “By allowing us to set a failing grade to a 50 percent, we are giving our students a chance. We are giving them an opportunity to change the course,” Hollstein said.
Board Member David Hancock approved the suspension but addressed his concerns over students not putting in the work. “Some will get a 50 percent with no effort. This is not fair to those who do try and thrive. This needs to be done and I will support this for the first quarter,” Hancock said.
Student Board Member Ian Herd supported the vote and said this was a way for the school system to show compassion and let students know it understands the difficulties many encountered with virtual learning during the first quarter.