Schools finding  new ways for  making the grade

With the understanding that students adjusted to Distance Learning with a wide range of success, school districts across the state were tasked with coming up with a modified grading system for that time period. Locally, both Cambridge-Isanti and North Branch Area Schools came up with similar, but not identical, solutions for this potential problem.

“The state had released grading guidance a couple weeks ago, and we worked with our team to make sure we followed the guidelines,” said North Branch Superintendent Dr. Deb Henton at the May 14 School Board meeting. “We know some students don’t have equal access to the supports they need to be successful.”

“Guiding principles and consideration from MDE have really charged us with creating systems and policies that hold all of our students harmless during this time,” said Cambridge-Isanti Director of Teaching and Learning Dr. Brenda Damiani at the May 21 School Board meeting.

To that end, no student will receive a failing grade for the Distance Learning period. At the same time, schools will still need to provide some sort of indication of a students’ level understanding their teachings.

In North Branch, each student in grades kindergarten through five will receive an asterisk.

“There’s always been an asterisk on the report card for elementary students,” Henton explained. “The asterisk pertains to standards that may not have been covered during the time period. So parents are familiar with it; they’ve seen it before.”

For grades six through 12, students will have the option of choosing a standard “A,B,C” letter grade or a “pass/no credit.”

In Cambridge-Isanti, students in the Primary and Intermediate Schools will simply not be graded for Trimester 3, which was set to begin right when Distance Learning was mandated. However, Damiani said teachers will be holding conferences with families in order to discuss students’ progress towards the end of the school year.

For the C-I Middle Schools, teachers have been giving progress reports to students using the traditional A-F grading scale. However, their grades will automatically be marked as either a pass or no grade on their final report card. Students will be able to choose to have them reported as an “A,B,C” grade.

It is basically the opposite for high school students. For them, the default grading would be the traditional A,B,C system, but they could choose to switch it to a “pass/in progress” grade. Students are allowed to choose different grading methods for different courses. 

“Because high school classes are credit-bearing, we want to make sure students have every opportunity to earn their credit,” Damiani said. “So students would be given an ‘in progress’ grade if they have not met the requirements for the course yet. And then we would work with students to ensure they have every opportunity to complete those credits and not receive a failing grade due to Distance Learning.”

For both districts, with the exception of C-I Middle School students, traditional “A,B,C” letter grades will count towards their cumulative grade point average. However, according to both districts, even that will have as minimal of an impact on things such as gaining acceptance to college.

“There is a message we are being asked to include on our students’ transcripts about this being an unprecedented time,” said Henton. “The colleges and universities that were engaged in the work I was involved in have said they will honor that. So we’re hopeful that this time period will not negatively impact a student’s admission into college. Now, that said, we can only somewhat control what happens in Minnesota. So if we have students that go across the border, we don’t know what they are going to say about this on the transcript.”

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