Older students to be graded ‘credit’ or ‘no credit’ for semester spent at home

School board votes unanimously to change system to reflect challenges of online learning

San Francisco students will get marked “credit” or “no credit” rather than letter grades for the spring semester disrupted by coronavirus, school district officials decided Tuesday.

The San Francisco Board of Education unanimously voted to alter the grading system in recognition of the fact that students will continue distance learning for the remainder of the semester.

The credit or no credit system applies to grades six through 12, and students may receive credit after the semester if they complete the required work by the fall semester, or by July 31 for graduating seniors. San Francisco Unified School District must ensure credit recovery options for all students, the resolution said.

Students receiving special education will receive grades according to their individualized learning plans, while transitional kindergarten through fifth grades will see feedback in the “comments only” section.

Commissioners first proposed giving all students As, but backtracked to credit or no credit after district staff warned doing so would violate the educational code that preserves the teacher’s right to determine grades.

“While we understand the rationale and good intentions behind that position, what we found was a couple things,” said Superintendent Vincent Matthews. “We resolve to make it an equitable grading option for our students.”

Lucy Cao, a fifth grader, and Charlie Cao, a third grader, both students at West Portal Elementary School, study at their dining room table. (Photo courtesy of Angie Cao)

The University of California and California State University systems also objected, saying it would result in inaccurate student assessment and college placement while making it harder to earn “eligible in the local context” designations. SFUSD estimated 40 percent of last year’s graduates attend a university in the two public higher education systems.

Schools in Oakland, San Jose, Palo Alto, and Long Beach are also switching to credit or no credit. Commissioners sought a uniform statewide approach to grades.

Student delegate Jett Sandoval proposed adding the option to receive a grade, but Matthews said it would present teachers with great difficulty in assessing a grade at this time when other students might receive credit or no credit.

Commissioners like Alison Collins were more concerned with meeting the social and emotional needs of students at this time, and said the educational focus should be on catching students up in the fall.

Starting in May, educators will have a universal set of wellness questions to submit on a needs assessment form. Commissioner Faauuga Moliga said the district’s analysis should help form an in-person wellness check-in strategy with city social workers like himself.

“Unfortunately, there are certain things you should do first and we didn’t,” Collins previously said. “What we don’t know, we don’t know. If we can’t reach people, those are the ones I’m worried about.”

Aptos Middle School student Charles Chu previously started a petition calling for online work to be optional in the face of mental health impacts. Lila Nelson, parent to a fourth-grader who sits on the African American Parent Advisory Council, said she saw a difference in mood from her usually studious daughter due to online learning.

“By the time you get into the class, the class is over,” Nelson said. “I’m seeing her lose the motivation to even want to do school.”


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