OLYMPIA — None of the state’s 1.2 million K-12 students will earn a failing grade for the rest of the school year, state Superintendent Chris Reykdal said during a call with reporters Wednesday.
Districts must assign either an incomplete grade or a letter grade better than F to high school students, according to a new policy from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
In elementary and middle schools, districts can continue with whatever grading system they use. But a student cannot fail a course.
The policy gives “broad discretion” to each of the state’s 294 school districts but ensures students won’t be penalized as school administrators and families navigate distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic, Reykdal said.
“We didn’t want anything that created a permanent record for students when, to no fault of their own, they just didn’t have connectivity or the support to do the work,” he said. “Nothing about this is perfect. Any system we choose has inequities, but we tried to draw the best interest from as many perspectives as we could.”
Under the policy, incomplete grades will not negatively impact a student’s grade point average. Instead, districts are required to provide options like summer school, independent study or a course repeat for students who don’t pass a class.
Each district decides how they’ll do that, Reykdal said.
Administrators across the state were notified about the policy Tuesday night. Many are still figuring out how they’ll comply.
For example, a district could decide to give out As, Bs, Cs, Ds and incompletes. Or, they could opt for just As and incompletes. Or even As, Bs and incompletes.
Seattle Public Schools voted Monday to go with As and incompletes as the only grade options.
It has been over a month since Gov. Jay Inslee announced that all schools would move to distance learning on March 13.
On April 6, the governor extended school closures until the end of the academic year.
Now, it’s unclear whether schools will open in the fall.
That’s a decision for the governor, Reykdal said.
If students head back to class for the new year, social distancing measures could be in place, he said. That could include staggered schedules or keeping high school students online while elementaries and middle schools re-open.
“It’s too early to make any of those determinations, but we’re already starting to think about that,” he said.
Since schools moved to online learning, administrators have placed extra emphasis on graduating seniors, Reykdal said. If a senior earns an incomplete grade, they won’t have time to make up the lost credit prior to graduation.
Reykdal said he doesn’t think many seniors will earn incompletes, and those who do will have options to recover credits over the summer. Additionally, the state board of education is allowing districts to apply for certain credit waivers for graduating students.
“This is not new,” he said. “We’ve had seniors for a long time who got right up to that graduation ceremony and didn’t quite get the credit or grade they needed, so there are typically programs in the summer for credit recovery.”