Wednesday, December 15, 2021 by Ramon Tomey
Several school districts in California have dropped D and F grades for high school students. Authorities for the districts claimed that the move seeks to re-engage students in schools as they return to in-person learning, alongside boosting chances of getting into the state’s colleges and universities.
School districts (SDs) eschewing the D and F grades include Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, Sacramento City Unified and San Diego Unified. According to a report by KRON 4, students who fail a test will be allowed to take it once more. Those who fail to finish their homework will receive an extension on turning in their assignments, it added.
The KRON 4 report also mentioned that students unable to pass their final exam or finish their homework by the end of the semester will receive an “incomplete” grade. The idea is to encourage students to learn the course material without worrying about possible poor grades that can prevent admission from institutions like the University of California (UC) and California State University (Cal State).
The California districts’ decision to drop the D and F grades follows some public schools in the state giving students the option to convert their letter-based grades to pass-or-fail counterparts. Based on reports from several educators, many students who receive a D grade only work enough to avoid failing.
Given this, advocates of so-called competency-based learning suggest that assessment should be based on what students have learned from the course instead of their test results.
Nidya Baez, assistant principal at Fremont High School in the Oakland Unified SD, said of the plans to drop the two grades: “Our hope is that students begin to see school as a place of learning, where they can take risks and learn from mistakes, instead of a place of compliance.” (Related: California high school students are so brain damaged by vaccines that they can’t pass rudimentary exit exam; failing students to be given diplomas anyway.)
“Right now, we have a system where we give a million points for a million pieces of paper that students turn in, without much attention to what they’re actually learning.”
However, Baez added that this change will not happen overnight and stakeholders such as parents, teachers and students must “buy in” to this shift. “It has to be a cultural shift at the school. You have to build trust because we’re really rebuilding an entire system. It will be a lot of work, but it’s important [for us to] do this because traditional grades benefit some kids, but they don’t help everyone,” she said.
Some education stakeholders said it is high time for school districts to do away with the D and F grades – among them Oakland Unified SD Board Director Sam Davis. He and others believe that knowing if a student is not mastering the course material allows teachers to step in and develop an early intervention program to help them achieve a C grade.
However, he pointed out that while the D letter grade should be dropped, students should still be given the appropriate grade if they fail instead of just an incomplete remark. Davis told ABC on Dec. 9: “D grades are not valid for college eligibility at UC and Cal State. But obviously, if students don’t master the material, they shouldn’t be getting credit for the class [and] they would be getting an F.” (Related: College entrance test scores collapse across America as dumbed-down liberal education system teaches “social justice” instead of thinking skills.)
Devin Vodicka, former superintendent for the Vista Unified SD, said that while traditional grading may have worked for previous generation – a competency-based system fits the rapidly changing workplace of the future more. He serves as the chief executive of the non-profit Learner-Centered Collective, which helps SDs shift to competency-based learning.
“We need a system that gets beyond the institutional model and provides more meaningful feedback for students. The future is going to require less focus on time and more focus on what we can do and contribute, and the quality of our performance. We need to prepare our students for this.”
However, some teachers disagree with dropping D and F grades in the classroom. They argue that these serve as red flags that indicate a student did not understand the course and needs extra help.
Math and science teacher Debora Rinehart, who teaches at the St. Theresa School in the Oakland Unified SD, told KRON 4 that eschewing D and F grades does not guarantee that students will learn even with extra help, and may even lead to grade inflation.
“I will work with any student before of after school, or even on the weekend, to help them learn. However, I will never lie about their knowledge level. Not reporting Ds and Fs is the equivalent of lying about a student’s progress.”
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