The Pleasanton school board unanimously adopted a temporary grading policy at a special online meeting Thursday, allowing secondary students to receive "Credit" or "No Credit" marks instead of low letter grades on their first-semester report card.
Pleasanton Unified School District staff said they "want to make it clear that this is not the hold-harmless policy from last spring," but that the policy would allow students to avoid any immediate negative impact on their grade-point average (GPA) until they could remediate any courses.
With many students struggling with loneliness, isolation and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic and "disengaging from school entirely," assistant superintendent Janelle Woodward called the policy "an opportunity to provide an additional layer of support for students who are struggling the most under these unprecedented circumstances."
Middle and high school students who earn a grade of F during the first semester -- which ended Dec. 18 -- will instead receive no credit, while students with a grade of D will receive a credit mark. In both instances, a CR or NC mark does not impact a student's GPA as negatively as a failing letter grade.
Students with earned grades of A, B or C, and those who earn an extra grade weighting in Advanced Placement or Honors-level courses with a C grade or better, will have their grades upheld.
The district is working on a plan to help high school students with credit recovery for first-semester courses, as well as for students who received no credit marks and/or to remediate courses with credit marks.
Students will have the chance to replace CR/NC marks with letter grades, according to Woodward, with priority being given this spring to high school seniors who need to retake courses to meet graduation or college admission requirements.
Summer school will also be offered to help high school students earn letter grades for classes that are reflected as CR/NC for core classes.
If graduation requirements are not remediated over the summer, students in grades 9 to 11 will need to retake those courses the following year. Middle school students who receive No Credit for higher level math may also need to retake courses later on.
Last April, the California Department of Education and Board of Education issued grading guidance stating that both letter grades and Credit/No Credit would be accepted for spring of the 2019-20 school year while students and teachers adjusted to remote instruction.
PUSD has reverted back to its regular grading system since then and observed "a significant increase in the number of Ds and Fs for secondary students," particularly for minority groups.
Though Black and American Indian/Alaska Native students make up a small portion of PUSD's overall racial demographics, of 162 Black students in secondary grades, 30% had a D or F during the first quarter of 2020-21. Of the 26 American Indian or Alaska Native students in secondary school, 73% also had at least one D or F during the first quarter.
Since last year, the number of secondary students with two to four D or F grades has increased from 39.1% to 43.3%.
"What was most concerning to us was to look at the number of students who have 5 or more Ds or Fs," said Pam VandeKamp, district director of assessment and accountability.
That number went from 26 students overall who had 5 or more Ds or Fs, or 1.6% of all secondary students, to 342 students -- or an increase to 18.5%.
In December, site administrators collaborated with staff to develop and implement flexible grading options during the pandemic. These include reducing assignment workloads, accepting late work without penalty, allowing make-ups for missed assignments, and allowing test corrections and retakes.
The deadline for semester one grade submission was also extended to Jan. 12, to allow teachers to make any changes. Final grades should be available on Jan 15.
Ahead of a planned virtual town hall meeting on secondary school reopening this Wednesday (Jan. 13) at 5:30 p.m., PUSD is seeking feedback from families on remote learning in order to provide an updated recommendation to the Board of Trustees soon on students returning to campus.
Last month, the board recommended that secondary campuses reopen after Alameda County is in the red tier for four weeks, and as permitted by public health officials.