You may have seen recently that in Durango, School District 9-R has moved, like oodles of other school districts around the country, to a temporary grading policy for middle and high school students – that is, for mostly-online learners – during the pandemic. Owing to the uncertainties of distance learning, in Durango, students who would have received a grade of C or better will be given a P, for passed; students who would have gotten a D will get a P-; and students who would have flunked will get a grade of NC, for no credit. Students can still request a letter grade from their teachers.
“The feeling is that it allows the student to continue to do the work they need to do without having that lasting impact on the GPA that could make a difference in a college admittance or a scholarship,” Superintendent Dan Snowberger told the Herald.
It is a refreshingly sensible policy under the extraordinary circumstances.
Bayfield and Ignacio are keeping their traditional grading scales in place, taking into account their varying local conditions.
And then there is San Francisco. This is a good time to point out that we are grateful for the existence of the Golden Gate City, for so often and so selflessly being the pilot fish and the guinea pig for nearly every bad idea to come down the governance pike as well the typical good ones. This lets the rest of us see how far a progressive agenda can be taken before grievous self-harm is inflicted; they make it awfully easy for us to sit back and say, “We’ll stick with the old way for now, but do let us know how that works out for you!” Now is such a time.
It’s not all of California, as its neighbors sometimes fear. San Diego’s school district has set a floor whereby students during this pandemic semester will not receive a grade lower than they received earlier in the year. In South Pasadena’s school district, students can choose whether they want a letter grade or to be graded pass/fail. In Los Angeles, the Unified School District is dropping F’s from the grading system, so no student can fail.
And San Francisco said, “Hold my beer!”
A majority of its school board wants to give all students all A’s as long as they are not in class because of COVID-19. The idea, San Francisco school board President Mark Sanchez told The Washington Post, “came from being compassionate and understanding that our students are up against the wall, especially the most vulnerable, in this crisis. We wanted to give them some latitude. Our board is a very sympathetic group of folks.”
That last sentence is telltale. The San Francisco school board hopes to demonstrate how compassionate it is by giving every student the same very high grade, which makes the notion of grade inflation seem quaint.
The board was serious about the idea, Sanchez said last week, although it realized it was “probably going to be a symbolic effort,” given that the California Department of Education and the University of California system might not allow San Francisco district students to enter college based on such understanding and sympathy.
At some point, you have to wonder whether the adults are as concerned with students’ success, engagement, opportunity and even equity as they are with their self-regard, and whether they are capable of acting in the best interests of others, which can mean making hard decisions. That selflessness is what leadership is about, whether you are a green second lieutenant with troops under fire or a member of a school board.
San Francisco, don’t ever change. And stay over there.