Students cannot fail, says state superintendent in laying out grading policy

While local school districts will receive plenty of latitude in deciding how to properly evaluate students in the final weeks of the school year, the state superintendent of public instruction, Chris Reykdal, made one thing clear.

No student will fail.

Because some of the state’s 1.2 million students may not have the ability to engage in online instruction or have the proper support, districts will have to assign a grade from A through D or an incomplete, Reykdal said.

Administrators across the state were given the policy Tuesday evening, and it will be up to each district to decide how to implement it while staying within its framework. Schools will not engage in traditional face-to-face instruction for the rest of the school year, and it’s currently unclear if school will restart in the fall as it normally would.

“The governor is in charge of timeliness of return,” Reykdal said.

Incomplete grades will not affect a student’s grade-point average either, Reykdal said. Districts will have a few different options for students to finish their course work, including summer school, repeating the course in the next term or an independent study.

In some competency-based courses, students should be allowed to demonstrate mastery without having to retake the course as well, Reykdal said. The state will also allow for “backfilling,” allowing the student to take the next-most rigorous course, if applicable, and using that earned grade for the previous course as well.

“Now we have a grading framework that will allow us to move forward,” Reykdal said.

While much of the emphasis of these policies is on outgoing seniors, measures were put in place for younger high school students as well.

The state will also put a COVID-19 ‘designator’ on each course to ensure underclassmen won’t be affected by an “incomplete” in two or three years time. Districts also cannot use “pass/fail.”

“It still has so many implications for students later, there may be a downside,” Reykdal said, adding that he believes higher education institutions will be “flexible” regarding this unprecedented time.

Middle and elementary schools can continue to use their grading systems, but students cannot receive an “F” there, either, Reykdal said.