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Seattle Public Schools adopts temporary grading policy for high school students

Schools across the state have had to make a major shift to remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Now districts are figuring out how to grade the work that students are doing — or in some cases, not doing. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is expected to issue guidance on grading this week.

The Seattle school district has just adopted a temporary grading policy for its more than 14,000 high school students. Most will receive an A if they try to keep up. Some students may receive an incomplete if they have the ability to engage in schoolwork but do not.

Seattle Superintendent Denise Juneau said there will be a lot of outreach from teachers and principals before an incomplete is given.

“We will make sure that our procedures following this policy change are clear, that prior to giving an incomplete that all avenues of engaging students have been attempted, and prior to giving an incomplete that the teacher will work with their principal on any other efforts that can be made,” Juneau told the school board.

No grading policy is perfect in this situation, Juneau said. But she said this one best fits with the district’s strategic plan, which prioritizes the needs of African-American male students and students who have been traditionally underserved. The aim is to not create a grading policy that results in leaving those students behind.

Students who receive an incomplete can finish the work through the fall semester. At the middle school level, students will receive a P for passing and will be asked to stay engaged in learning as much as possible.

But some school board directors, including Lisa Rivera-Smith, expressed concern about this plan. She said it's hard to know the stresses each student is facing right now.

“If our goal is to truly minimize harm, I almost feel like I’d have to advocate for As for all or passes for all,” Rivera-Smith said. “Having incompletes on the table kind of worries me.”

But she and a majority of the school board ultimately voted in favor of the temporary grading policy. Board Director Leslie Harris had proposed that the district postpone its decision and wait for guidance from OSPI as well as more community engagement, but a majority voted against her amendment.

Education Seattle Public SchoolsCoronavirus Coverage
In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.