DCPS implements a new grading policy for the 2020-2021 school year

Madison Dias

A new grading policy has been embraced by DC Public Schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Inspired by stakeholder feedback and maintaining a goal of equity, the grading policy was adopted in an effort to adapt to the difficulties and new experiences distance learning brings. This edited policy is fit to operate at-home, hybrid, or fully in-person learning. 

With this new grading policy, final grades are now being published as A, B, P, or I with P standing for passing and I for incomplete. Students who earned A’s or B’s will have those letters published on their transcript and calculated into their grade point average. They may request to have “P” published instead of the letter grade. Students who earn C’s or D’s will have a P for “passing” published on their transcript and it will not be calculated into their GPA. Students who wish to have their letter grades published may request the change to their counselor. A student who earned an F will have an “I” on their transcript with credit recovery being available until the end of Term two–January 29. 

In order to accompany the four by four schedule, final grades are being calculated based on “term” grades. For instance, in two term courses, the term grades are added and divided by two to calculate a final overall grade, similarly done with year long, or four term, classes. Additionally, midterms and final exams are now calculated within term grades rather than separately. The DCPS grading scale per term is as follows: 20% Engagement, 40% Practice and Application, and 40 % Assessments. 

Assessments are still going to be part of the expectations this school year. Testing environments are very different and atypical this year with students “in their bedroom or on their living room sofa,” said a spokesperson for DCPS’s Parent University. Students will require guidelines while administering these tests for instance, some will be time bound.  Teachers are able to use other platforms when administering tests and quizzes; a majority of them are using Canvas. 

Similarly to last year’s online learning, there is no applicable late policy; students are able to turn in assignments within the quarter at any time, without fear of there being points taken off for lateness. However, many teachers are locking assignments to keep “deadlines” for students, an approach to keep students on track with lessons. 

Additionally, according to ESL and Science teacher, Daniela Muñoz, compared to previous years’, the new grading policy, “allows retakes of assignments when proficiency is not demonstrated on the first try, and [teachers] have been given specific point values that [they] can use for assignments.” Assignments may now only be given the points of 10, 20, 25, 50 or 100. This point range doesn’t “allow for as much nuance as what we were able to have in the past,” with smaller assignments being able to be 5 points or any other value not mentioned previous to this policy, said Muñoz. In regards to extra credit, it is no longer required as it was last year during online school. “It is up to the teacher’s discretion whether or not they are provided,” said Muñoz. Contrary to these differences, percentages associated with letter grades are remaining unchanged to previous years. 

Students have expressed appreciation for the no late policy and the leniency. However, similar to junior Kenadi Burnett, students have shared that they are “unaware of any grading policy changes.”

Muñoz believes that given the “constrictions, inherent difficulties and inequities that exist in distance learning,” the change in the policy is a “step in the right direction towards supporting our diverse student population.” She also admits that the “culture shift” is hard on both teachers and students, acknowledging the concerns that this format might affect students’ view of responsibility and accountability in the workplace. 

In dealing with such uncertain times, Muñoz recommends that students keep a normal schedule on Wednesdays as to prepare for upcoming assignments and assessments, do their assigned work during assigned asynchronous time so students do not have to do work after school, while also not having the TV on in the background so as to build self-control and learn how to auto-regulate. Muñoz advises students to speak to their teachers if they are struggling and use the office hours on Wednesdays to communicate to them; teachers are unable to read students as they were during in-person learning therefore making it harder for them to know when extra help is needed. 

 Final grades will be entered into Aspen and appear on the students’ transcript once a course is completed. Students who received an “I” will have until the end of summer school 2021 to earn a passing grade in the course, if not completed by summer, the “I” will become an “F” and the student will need to repeat the course.