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Q4 grading decision for CR/NC

Update:

As we progress through Distance Learning, we are trying to make it as accessible as possible for all students.

Students have to "engage in learning" to earn credit. That is defined subjectively by teachers according to each class and each student. Teachers will expect each student to do what they CAN during the pandemic, knowing that will vary from household to household.

This can feel uncomfortable, because it is not what we’re used to. We are used to having a % required to achieve credit – but that is not the case this quarter. Because we are working during a global pandemic, we know we need to give grace and space to students who are unable to achieve at their usual level from their home circumstances.

We realize that, for some students in harrowing circumstances, (newly homeless because of parents losing jobs, for example) one project might be all they can do. We don't want to send students out of the pandemic with the added load of credit make-up, so we're trying to get every student credit to the extent that we can! This pandemic is hard enough without worrying about credit recovery next year.

To alleviate stress, some teachers changed gradebooks to set at 1% for CR in response to students being really stressed out seeing F grades when they won't really be F's. This does not mean a student earns credit at 1%. Students who are able to should keep doing what they can. Families can certainly set a % that you expect your student to achieve, according to your circumstances.

Our grading system is not usually subjective like this - and won't be next year - but the district feels it's important to be able to meet students where they are at, and give kids a break.

Please contact Dr. Palmer at emily.palmer@mpls.k12.mn.us with further questions. Thank you!

 

From Dr. Palmer:

I am pleased that, after advocacy from all the MPS high school principals, the district made the choice to move to CR/NC for all MPS middle & high school students for Quarter 4, 2020.

Earning credit (or no credit) does not impact a student's GPA at all. It's the best way to give students a break who can't do their best work in the current context. Whether it's too many distractions or the anxiety & depression that some are experiencing, moving to CR/NC is the best way to ensure that ALL of our Millers stay on track and earn their credits.

Students can't opt for A-F grades instead, as that would disadvantage students who are unable to make the more challenging choice. Colleges will know that our whole district was CR/NC and thus students are held harmless.

This choice also frees teachers from the extensive grading load that they have during a normal school year, so they have focus both on supporting students during this tough time, and also on their own families. We need grace more than anything right now, and this decision provides that.

 

Here is the district memo from Superintendent Graff:

The decision to move to a C/NC grading system for 4th quarter was made only after lengthy discussion (including with students), a review of what other districts were doing, discussions with the Minnesota Department of Education, and guidance from state and national higher education institutions and the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). Ultimately, however, we had to make a decision based on what was best for our particular population of students – holistically – and through the lens of MPS Board of Education equity policy 1304

As we understand it students are not harmed by the C/NC approach. The NCAA, for example, will calculate the “C” as a 2.33. If that increases a student’s G.P.A. it will be used. If it lowers a student’s G.P.A. it will not be applied.

On the other hand, moving to a C/NC system has many other benefits for students. Here are some key factors in our decision:

  • A two-letter grading system allows for more consistency in grading across schools and grade levels, reduces the amount of potential adult bias, and does not penalize students for external factors beyond their control.
  • Inconsistencies in technology device and internet access impact students’ ability to receive content.
  • Inconsistencies in distance learning platforms create a highly subjective and biased student experience.
  • Inconsistencies in application of disciplinary practices impact student engagement and experience in online classrooms. Teachers are not trained to support engagement/re-engagement in online communities.
  • It is challenging for students to mitigate factors in their home learning environments. Classroom learning allows school systems to provide additional supports for student needs that are in many cases the result of home and environmental factors. Utilizing a competitive grading system (A-F) while dually relying on students to mitigate their home environments void of consistent school systems and direct teacher support places an undue burden on the district’s most vulnerable population.
  • Schools are not being held accountable using state testing at this time. MDE is recommending that no formal School Improvement Planning is done during this period of distance learning. Mirroring accountability structures for schools and students would be a more equitable practice than holding children and families to a different standard than we are being held to as an institution.