Students in some of California’s largest school districts will no longer be allowed to fail. Teachers have been banned in various school districts from handing out D or F grades for failing work. Instead, students will be given a second chance to retake tests and complete work again.
The move was promoted during the pandemic as a way for the school districts to support Latino, Black, and low-income students who have been struggling to keep up their grades.
The pandemic has disproportionately affected minority and low-income students. This change in the grading policy may be able to help these students during their time of need. However, critics do not support the change because they fear that it will make it too easy for students to succeed while failing to prepare them for the harsh realities of life in America.
The California school districts that are making the change in the grading policy include the Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, Sacramento City Unified, and Santa Ana, according to a report published in Daily Mail about an article on Ed Source.
Instead of failing students for poor work, they will have their assignment marked “incomplete” and will be given a second chance to do the work and get a better grade.
“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,” said Nidya Baez (above), assistant principal at Fremont High in Oakland Unified, which is considering dropping Ds. “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.”
Devin Vodicka, former superintendent of Vista Unified in San Diego County and chief executive of the Learner-Centered Collaborative, which is working to shift the educational field to a competency-based learning model, spoke about how traditional grading is biased against minority and low-income students.
“We need a system that gets beyond the institutional model and provides more meaningful feedback for students,” Vodicka (above) said. “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.”
Debora Rinehart, a math and science teacher at St. Theresa School, a Catholic school in Oakland, believes that it is important to fail students when their work is poor.
“I will work with any student before or after school or even on the weekend to help them learn. However, I will never lie about their knowledge level,” she said. “Not reporting Ds and Fs is the equivalent of lying about a student’s progress.”
Critics of the change in grading policy do not support it because they fear that it will make it too easy for students to succeed while failing to prepare them for the harsh realities of life in America. However, supporters argue that this could be a way to help minority and low-income students who have been struggling during the pandemic. Only time will tell if this change in policy will be beneficial for students.